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Andrew Strauss hasn’t played a limited overs international since April 2007, but tonight he leads England in a Twenty20 international against a West Indies side superficially similar to the Stanford Superstars team that beat England by 10 wickets back when Allen Stanford was more likely to be asked ‘is it fun being a millionaire?‘ than ‘how do you plead?‘.

Cricinfo’s preview of tonight’s match expects Ian Bell to open the batting for England alongside Strauss. Yes, that’s right, Ian Bell.

England have never quite managed to get their Twenty20 opening partnership right. They have tried the following in the last four years: Geraint Jones and Marcus Trescothick, Strauss and Trescothick, Trescothick and Bell, Ed Joyce and Michael Vaughan, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, Prior and Darren Maddy, Prior and Luke Wright, Maddy and Vikram Solanki, Wright and Phil Mustard, and Bell and Wright. That’s 10 different partnerships in a mere 14 matches.

I doubt that Bell and Strauss are the solution, but I will graciously suspend judgement until, ooh, maybe the fifth over of tonight’s match.

UPDATE: It now seems that England will try another opening pair – Steve Davies and Ravi Bopara. They seem more like a Twenty20 opening pair than Strauss and Bell, so let’s hope for some success.

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With the Test series against New Zealand only days away, there are still a number of key questions which England hope will be answered over the next few weeks. Chiefly, there are the following three:

  1. Should Strauss play? After a series of poor performances, Andrew Strauss was dropped last year. Despite not making many runs since, he now appears to be poised for a Test recall. It’s understandable that he continues to be in the selectors’ minds (not least because he has a Central Contract), but how many poor innings can he have before someone else is given a chance?
  2. Is it time to try another spinner? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Monty. I’ve queued in my lunch hour to watch him sign books, for goodness sake. But he’s been playing Test cricket for long enough now to be judged by the same standards as anyone else. That means that if there’s a Young Buck out there whose batting average is higher than his bowling average at the time of writing, he might get a chance in Monty’s stead.
  3. Who is the best wicket-keeper? Now that Matt Prior has gone the way of Geraint Jones, Tim Ambrose will get to sip from the poisoned chalice. Those who keep wicket well are criticised for not scoring enough runs, and those who average more than 40 in Test cricket face scrutiny of every mistake they make with the gloves.

Whilst there may not be immediate answers available to any of these questions, it must be hoped that they are a lot easier to answer by the time the teams reconvene for another series in May.

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