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Jofra Archer? Rehan Ahmed? Josh Tongue? Zak Crawley? Who will make England's World Cup squad?

England to defend 50-over World Cup title in India in October and November; Jofra Archer "on course" to be fit while Jason Roy has players pushing for his opening spot; are Zak Crawley and Josh Tongue in the mix for places? - watch tournament live on Sky Sports

Dawid Malan, Jofra Archer, Rehan Ahmed
Image: Dawid Malan, Jofra Archer and Rehan Ahmed (left to right) are hoping to be part of England's World Cup in India this autumn

It is just under two months until England begin the defence of the 50-over World Cup title they won in such dramatic fashion at Lord's in July 2019.

England pipped New Zealand on boundary countback four years ago and will face the Black Caps again in the opening match of the 2023 World Cup, in Ahmedabad on October 5, live on Sky Sports.

Jos Buttler's side have 11 white-ball internationals before then (seven ODIs, four T20Is) and plenty of players pushing for places at the big tournament in India this autumn.

The openers

We can probably ink in Jonny Bairstow's name at the top of the order. The Yorkshireman, now fully recovered from the broken leg that forced him to miss last year's T20 World Cup, has amassed 11 hundreds and 15 fifties in ODIs at an average just shy of 47. He appears a nailed-on starter.

Bairstow's long-time opening partner in ODIs, Jason Roy was axed for the T20 World Cup after a lean run in the shortest format but scored two centuries in the 50-over game this winter, in South Africa and Bangladesh, to quieten the speculation that he could lose his 50-over spot as well.

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England's Jason Roy hit superb century in the second ODI against Bangladesh in March

If Bairstow and/or Roy suffer injuries or a dramatic loss of form, then Phil Salt and Dawid Malan look most likely to step in - although Salt did have a quiet time in that much-lamented ODI series in Australia that took place straight after the T20 World Cup, and then also in Bangladesh in March.

Malan, however, has struck four hundreds in his last 12 ODI innings. Three of his tons came from the No 3 spot but one, in Bangladesh, was notched opening the batting. Malan featuring at the top of the order could be a way to get both him and Joe Root in the same XI.

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Malan was also a centurion in Bangladesh earlier this year as he pressed his case for World Cup selection

Roy's hard-hitting Surrey team-mate Will Jacks is another contender to open and would bring the added bonus of some off-spin, while England may also have Zak Crawley in their thoughts.

Crawley's only three ODIs to date came during the Covid-hit series at home to Pakistan in 2021 - the Kent player making 58, nought and 39 - but he was his team's top-scorer in the Ashes series, during which he struck 189 from just 182 deliveries at Emirates Old Trafford.

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Watch the best shots from Zak Crawley's 189 off 182 balls against Australia during the fourth Ashes Test in Manchester

The middle order

Root may edge out Malan for the No 3 berth, with skipper Buttler, the dynamic Harry Brook and the six-hitting, spin-bowling Liam Livingstone completing the top six.

Ben Stokes, at time of writing at least, will not be coming out of his 50-over retirement, telling reporters last week that he wishes to use the time between the end of The Ashes and the next Test series in India in early 2024 to get his troublesome left knee fixed.

Other middle-order options include Test opener and Ashes winner Ben Duckett, whose array of sweep shots could prove successful in the subcontinent, plus James Vince and Sam Billings. Salt and Jacks could also slot in down the order.

Jos Buttler (PA Images)
Image: England captain Jos Buttler will be in the team's middle order in India - but who will join him?

The spinners

Spin twins Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid look likely to dovetail once again but England may also want a third frontline spinner in their squad in the subcontinent, despite the options of Root, Livingstone and potentially Jacks, too.

Teenage leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed, who took a five-for on Test debut in Pakistan last winter and then made his first white-ball appearances for his country in Bangladesh this spring, is a strong contender, with his bowling backed up by batting ability. The same is true of experienced left-armer Liam Dawson.

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Eighteen-year-old leg-spinner Ahmed took a wicket on his ODI debut for England in Bangladesh

But there appears little chance Matt Parkinson will be involved. The leg-spinner has dropped off the radar since making the last of his 12 international appearances in July 2022 and was not picked up for the 2023 edition of The Hundred.

The seamers

Jofra Archer, who bowled the Super Over against New Zealand at Lord's in 2019, is "on course" to be fit for the World Cup after a horrific time with injuries over the last few years.

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Jofra Archer took six wickets in an ODI against South Africa earlier this year

The 28-year-old's express pace and slower balls would be a major weapon for England, as he proved in South Africa last winter when he took a career-best 6-40 before suffering a recurrence of a stress fracture to his right elbow while at the IPL with Mumbai Indians.

Archer could be joined by fellow World Cup-winning seamers Mark Wood and Chris Woakes for the title defence with both coming off the back of excellent Ashes series, but all-rounder Sam Curran, player of the tournament when England lifted the T20 World Cup in Australia last November, is fast becoming an undroppable member of the white-ball sides, as is fellow left-armer Reece Topley.

Topley missed the T20 World Cup with ankle ligament damage he sustained after landing awkwardly on the boundary cushion in training, a cruel blow for a player who had bagged 30 white-ball wickets for England in 2022. He then dislocated his shoulder at the IPL this spring but is now back playing in The Hundred.

Reece Topley in training
Image: Reece Topley missed last year's T20 World Cup in Australia due to ankle ligament damage

Liam Plunkett was a key cog for England during the 2019 World Cup as a middle-overs enforcer and that sort of role could be fulfilled by Brydon Carse. Perhaps Josh Tongue is in the mix for that spot, too, after an impressive start to his Test career this summer?

Saqib Mahmood (stress fracture of the back) and Olly Stone (hamstring) are missing The Hundred so could be fighting a losing battle to be ready for the World Cup.

Left-armer David Willey remains in and around England's white-ball squads but says he is "completely at peace" with the prospect of missing out on successive 50-over World Cups, having been omitted from the previous one when Archer became England qualified.

"If everybody's fit, I probably don't play and I don't get picked. I'm completely at peace with that," he said.

Watch the ICC Men's 50-over World Cup live on Sky Sports throughout October and November.

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