Cricket: Ones to watch - England's batting keys

By David Leggat

Jos Buttler. Photo / Getty Images
Jos Buttler. Photo / Getty Images

England pair Eion Morgan and Jos Buttler showed their batting talents over the two completed games against New Zealand XI in Whangarei this week.

Stands of 77 off 37 balls, then 87 in 50 deliveries ensured England would put up challenging totals, one of which produced a comfortable win, the other a last-ball loss.

Neither batsman is in the test squad for next month. Buttler is yet to graduate to that class; Morgan was there but after 16 tests has not been required since early last year.

However, both shape as key figures if England are to maintain their five-win, one-loss T20 record against New Zealand.

To be fair, though, they can't be relied upon to perform feats of derring-do every time they take guard.

That said, New Zealand's bowlers will be on guard, especially at an Eden Park with ludicrously short straight boundaries - right in Buttler's firing line, based on Whangarei anyway.

So here are four batsmen England will be putting their hopes on to get the ANZ international series off on the right - English - foot and who won't be around next month.

Jos Buttler

No batsman caught the eye more effectively in Whangarei than the young man from Somerset.

Buttler was confirmed as England's T20 and ODI wicketkeeper in New Zealand, seeing off Jonny Bairstow in a two-horse race. Perhaps that suitably emboldened the 22-year-old as he belted an unbeaten 57 off 24 balls on Tuesday, then 51 off 31 in Wednesday's loss.

In harness with Eion Morgan, he looks, at this early stage, to be one of the pair who are perhaps England's most influential batting figures in the shortest form.

Buttler likes to hit straight and is unafraid to scoop the ball over the wicketkeeper's head. He was also smart about working the gaps in the New Zealand XI fields.

He's played 18 T20s since his debut against India in August 2011 and averages 19.5, with a strike rate of 132.2.

Buttler is England's brightest short-game prospect.

Eion Morgan

Dublin-born Morgan is England's finisher, quick-footed with a range of shots around the wicket. The popular story goes that he owes part of that skill to his early hurling days, which he denies.

The 26-year-old transferred his allegiance from Ireland to England in May 2009 and his 32 T20s since then have produced an impressive average of 36.9 and a strike rate of 132.

In Whangarei, Morgan looked a player who's already on 30 when he takes his first ball. Soft hands, the skill to work angles, reverse sweep and the ability to clear the boundary make Morgan a big asset.

He lost his place in the test squad after the recent tour of India. That part of his game remains a work in progress.

But in the 20-over game, and ODIs for that matter, he's a cracker. Innings of 48 not out off 32 balls, then 51 not out off 28 in Whangarei amply demonstrate what lies in store for New Zealand's bowlers, if they haven't done their homework or aren't bang on the job.

Alex Hales

Forget Hales' ordinary start to the tour at Whangarei, where he managed just six runs off a combined 16 balls in two innings.

The 24-year-old from Nottinghamshire can hit a truly long ball and gets his runs rapidly.

He may wish he was playing the West Indies tomorrow. His three best T20 innings in a 14-game international career were against them - an unbeaten 62 off 48 balls at the Oval in his second international in 2011; 99 off 68 deliveries at Nottingham last June; and 68 off 51 in a World T20 game at Pallekele in September.

Hales announced himself to the Aussies in style last month, clobbering 89 off 52 balls for the Melbourne Renegades. Eight towering sixes had the crowd roaring.

England can't rely on Morgan and Buttler to succeed every time. Hales needs to step up.

Luke Wright

The bustling all-rounder does well against New Zealand.

He was here on England's last tour five years ago, and has hit 179 runs off 117 balls in six games against New Zealand, going back to the inaugural world T20 in South Africa six years ago.

His international strike rate is a robust 135.18.

His test aspirations seemingly put to bed, Wright, 27, has turned himself into a have-bat-will-be-at-a-T20-show cricketer.

He has turned out for Pune Warriors, Melbourne Stars, Wellington and Dhaka Gladiators among others.

He cracked a 44-ball century in the Big Bash last summer. Wright crouches low at the crease and mixes hefty clouts with working the ball about to keep the runs ticking along.

Add in that he's a handy medium pacer, and you have what could be termed a very modern, in-demand T20 operator.

- NZ Herald

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