2019 Cricket World Cup: The balance of selection that could prove pivotal
Archer is one of a handful of England players to have picked up knocks recently (Photo: Getty Images)

With less than a week until England begin their World Cup campaign against South Africa, the hosts and favourites are sweating on the fitness of several players.

A number of key selections look unlikely to be 100% fit going into the tournament, providing several headaches for captain Eoin Morgan and coach Trevor Bayliss.

With the ruling that players are allowed to be replaced but not return to the squad, England will have to be savvy with core decisions if they want to go deep into the competition.

Deteriorated bowling attack

Spinner Adil Rashid has been struggling with a shoulder injury and his fitness is perhaps the reason why Liam Dawson was selected ahead of all-rounder Joe Denly. A premier spinner with more potential to take wickets.

But the hours preceding and during Englands warm-up contest with Australia have caused several slight issues that will be reviewed in the coming days.

Dawson himself split the skin on a finger and did not bat as a precaution. Meanwhile, seamer Mark Wood has undergone a scan after pulling up in his fourth over following an early dismissal of Australian captain Aaron Finch.

Jofra Archer replaced Wood in the field but also picked up a knock when fielding. He returned to bat at eleven but looked less than comfortable, almost run out without facing a ball before succumbing to that feat after just one delivery. 

Combined with Rashid's existing injury, Joe Root was forced to play a part despite originally being rested, as did 42-year old assistant coach Paul Collingwood.

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Strength in depth

Like Rashid, Chris Woakes will also go into the World Cup less than 100% sharp and did not bowl due to a knee issue. However, Woakes did strike 40 before being run out.

It totalled an entire bowling attack that either picked up injuries or could not bowl against Australia so the fact that England restricted them to less than 300, taking nine wickets in the process, must be applauded.

Liam Plunkett took four scalps, Tom Curran and Dawson chipped in with one apiece, whilst Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali were economical.

Further up the order, England were without captain Morgan who fractured a finger during training - the hosts missed his balance as they fell short of Australia's modest total despite another Jos Buttler counter-attack that bypassed 50. 

Morgan believes he will be fit for the tournament opener on Thursday but a packed schedule could cause issues.

Can they cope?

And that is the balancing act England need to cope with. On paper, this team is one of the best England World Cup squads ever, so they will want to keep as many of the current 15 together.

However, that may mean carrying several players who are not at their peak throughout the competition. Rashid and Woakes are already two, Morgan is likely to be another and Wood looks a possibility to join that list.

With a possible eleven matches across six weeks if England are going to contest the final, balance will be critical.

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