England give new strategy a spin
England are considering using the dual spin option of Monty Panesar and Jamie Dalrymple as part of their strategy to mount a serious challenge at the forthcoming World Cup.
The build-up to the Caribbean tournament was beginning in semi-serious fashion on Tuesday morning with a Twenty20 International at the Sydney Cricket Ground against Australia, but the tourists are most preoccupied with this Friday.
That is when they take on the host nation in the first match of the triangular series in Melbourne, the opening fixture of four against the host nation and four against New Zealand before, theoretically, a best-of-three final.
By the end of the convoluted process to eliminate one team England will, belatedly, need to have settled on a group of 15 to go to the West Indies, as the squads must be named on February 13.
With Michael Vaughan back at the heart of the think-tank, part of the discussion is that slow bowling may play a big part in the World Cup.
Vaughan made a point of talking about his own spin bowling when being confirmed as skipper on Sunday, and it is a key area if reports about the pitches in the West Indies are to be believed.
Many of the traditionally pacy wickets there have either been dug up or become much less responsive, with the prospect of turn.
In addition to that, the building of new grounds in places like Guyana, St Lucia and Antigua - all where England will definitely play - plus Jamaica could well allow the boundaries to be longer.
England's management have taken note of the fact that in their last home one-day internationals the West Indies have regularly given the 'death' overs to spinning all-rounders Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels.
So despite the fact that Panesar has played only 11 professional one-day games, his accuracy and reliability could see him fast-tracked quicker into the team than expected.
Dalrymple has played just 14 one-day internationals, but has already shown himself to have a sound temperament at the highest level and scored admirably consistently when called upon.
There is even the possibility that three spin bowlers might be called upon to travel to the Caribbean. Ashley Giles — who has been at home while his wife is treated for a brain tumour with, it is said, an encouraging outcome — will remain in the frame and so will Michael Yardy, who is captaining the 'A' side to Bangladesh.
With Vaughan exercising his off spin, knee permitting, and Kevin Pietersen encouraged to do the same, England are building up their options.
There was no guarantee of a full hand of spinners being used for the Twenty20 match, but it is expected to give veteran wicketkeeper Paul Nixon a chance to stake his claim for a full international debut.
He is believed to have been picked on the recommendation of Vaughan and with Duncan Fletcher's doubts about Chris Read's temperament hardly a state secret, Nixon could get a late run.
Another player who may well get a chance is Hampshire's 6ft 7in Chris Tremlett, currently enjoying an injury-free period and who has impressed England's batsmen with his potency in the nets.
Tremlett's only appearances for England came during the last time when they really looked like they might be going places in one-day cricket.
That was in the summer of 2005 prior to the Ashes, and amid the subsequent excitement it has been forgotten how well England competed with the world champions then, winning two matches, tying one and losing three.
The final game of that sequence was the last time that Vaughan played limited overs cricket for England, back in the days when the soon-abandoned substitutes experiment was still going.
Vaughan will probably open with Andrew Strauss in the one-dayers, trying to compensate for the enormous loss of Marcus Trescothick.
The Somerset batsman is said to be likely to play county cricket next summer, but there is no chance of him being available for the Caribbean.
After the openers, a solid three-to-six of Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff and Paul Collingwood is set to materialise with Dalrymple next, followed by a wicketkeeper and three specialist bowlers.
Jon Lewis has been struggling with an ankle injury and Tremlett may take the new ball with James Anderson.
The Twenty20 match holds out the chance of providing a morale-boosting result for England, with the Australians keen not to be seen to be taking it too seriously, perhaps aware that it might otherwise be taken as a kick-start for the tourists.
'I don't really like playing Twenty20 cricket,' admitted Ricky Ponting, 'but my problem is that I can't play a game in which I am wearing the national team colours and my opponents are wearing theirs, and treat it just as fun.'