Ben Jones looks at how the London Spirit performed on draft-day, and how their squad is shaping up.
Squad: Zak Crawley, Glenn Maxwell, Eoin Morgan, Mohammed Nabi, Mohammed Amir, Ravi Bopara, Mark Wood, Joe Denly, Daniel Lawrence, Chris Wood, Mason Crane, Adam Rossington, Roelof van der Merwe, Jade Dernbach, Luis Reece
Draft Activity: Ravi Bopara (60k), Chris Wood (40k)
London Spirit were another side with very little to do on Monday, with all but two of their players remaining from the initial draft, including their three overseas. Ravi Bopara brings huge T20 domestic experience to the Lord’s side, as does Chris Wood, along with an affordable left-arm variation. A quiet but functional day.
Spirit boast an absolutely elite middle order – one which would not look out of place in the IPL. Glenn Maxwell, Eoin Morgan, and Mohammed Nabi are all world class hitters, and importantly for any side, are broadly resistant to being bogged down against spin. Ravi Bopara has established himself as an effective batsman up and down the order in recent domestic seasons, and adds a touch of stability either at the top or through the middle.
That flexibility is another key strength for Spirit. The presence of all those all-rounders means that they can feasibly pick seven bowling options without compromising their batting too heavily. It also extends to the batting, where Bopara, Morgan, and Maxwell can slide up and down the order in response to the situation. While Spirit don’t boast one outstanding spinner, they have a good range of options for Morgan to work with. Mason Crane is an exciting bowler – most leg spinners are – but matches it with control, his economy rate the second lowest for any leg spinner in the last five years of T20 Blast. He will play whenever possible, but he is also supported by an able cast of spin bowling all-rounders. Glenn Maxwell is an adept bowler with the new ball, while Roloef van der Merwe operates primarily through the middle overs. Add to that the off spin of Mohammed Nabi, and Spirit have the resources to bowl intelligently to matchups when spin is the order of the day.
Spirit’s pace attack is not the deepest, but it is steeped in quality. Mohammed Amir is probably the best seamer in the competition not named Jofra, and boasts the best economy rate for any left-arm quick in T20 history (min 50 games) – very few in the world are as complete when it comes to short form pace bowling. Mark Wood is consistently ranked among the quickest white ball bowlers in the world, and while he may be involved in the Test side on occasion, England may be just as keen for him to be playing high level white ball cricket ahead of the World Cup.
The flipside to that elite middle order is a slightly more pedestrian opening pair. Joe Denly has a strike rate of 127 when batting up the order in the last few years, and while he brings some List A solidity to the opening berth he is not the most naturally explosive option. Adam Rossington has opened effectively in the past, and has a good record when doing so, but was moved down the order by Northamptonshire this season – the onus will likely be on him to take the initiative.
In terms of constructing their batting order, the lack of left-handed batsmen is a concern. Morgan is the only left-hander nailed on for selection, and Luis Reece is the only other left-hander in the squad, which leaves them vulnerable to sides willing to play to matchups, and diminishes some of that middle order strength.
Availability is also likely to be an issue for Spirit. Dan Lawrence, Mark Wood and Zak Crawley could feasibly all be in the Test side, and it’s not out of the question that Mason Crane could join them. While the ECB will be eager to see England’s non-playing squad members sent back to the Hundred sides as soon and as often as possible, it is likely that Morgan’s team will have to do some juggling.
Likely XI: Rossington+, Denly, Maxwell, Morgan, Nabi, Bopara, van der Merwe, Amir, M.Wood, Dernbach, Crane
Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.