England completed three consecutive big ODI wins over New Zealand on September 15 to win the four match series 3-1.

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In most of their squad’s final assignment before heading out to the World Cup, things started to click back into place for England in the format as the series went on. While some pre-series questions have been emphatically answered, there are still some that need resolution, and a couple of new ones have emerged.

As for New Zealand, the scoreline suggests less positives than in reality, but they will have to contend with the worrying injuries sustained in the field at Lord’s.

Malan is the No.1 opener

Dawid Malan’s series might have been interrupted by the birth of his second child, but it did nothing to disrupt his consistency. He passed fifty in each innings he played, with a 96 at the Kia Oval and an imperious century at Lord’s – his fifth of the year so far. It is not hard to imagine a version of this series in which Malan played significantly less.

If Jason Roy’s fitness had allowed, Malan may have had to cede his position. As it was, Roy’s back spasms allowed him to assert his dominance over the second spot at the top of the order.

With the top order is still less than solid after prolonged ODI absences for most of their number, Malan’s ice provided much-needed stability in comparison to Roy’s fire. Batting with Ben Stokes at the Kia Oval, he more overtly displayed his aggressive credentials, picking off the boundaries with a similar regularity to Stokes at the other end. It was an emphatic vindication of Malan’s recent fifty-over excellence.

Stokes fits the specialist batter role

Stokes’s unretirement and subsequent repositioning within the squad forced a change of balance for England. It also brought with it the pressure of returning to a squad as the all-conquering hero of 2019. If a half-century in Cardiff provided a muted assurance Stokes would bring the goods along with his return, the Kia Oval was his fanfare. A first ODI century since 2017, in a new role as a specialist batter, and the potential for more runs that brings, it was Stokes back where he belongs.

As with all all-rounders, each discipline can be key to the other. A bad day with the bat can be rectified with the ball and vice versa. Without the potential for redemption in the second half, Stokes’ new role as a specialist batter could have taken time to bed in. But this is Stokes in his pomp. At the Kia Oval, any criticism of jumping from World Cup to World Cup without putting in the hard yards in between was wiped out with the immeasurable value he brings.

Seam bowling attack still a work in progress

England used six seam bowlers in the series and were without Mark Wood. In Cardiff, their attack looked toothless when it was put to the sword by Devon Conway and Daryl Mitchell. Gus Atkinson, jettisoned into the World Cup before having made his ODI debut, looked way off what England would have hoped.

But there were positives. Chris Woakes looked as magic as ever and David Willey showed why England always return to him. But, the balance of the attack and who England will be able to turn to on dusty India pitches still looks unsettled.

Can Roy hold onto his place in the WC squad?

Roy didn’t play a single game in the series, meaning his last ODI innings now dates back to March. He may have two centuries in his last seven ODIs, but his spot in England’s first-choice XI looks to be rapidly disappearing. While back spasms kept him out of the first three matches, he looked at full fitness in England’s training before the final ODI, and the preference for Harry Brook in Stokes’s absence instead of moving Malan down the order could be significant.

If England no longer think Roy is in their best XI, it should be considered whether he’s in their best XV. As a specialist opener, it would make more sense for England’s batting cover to have more versatility. Roy could find himself playing against Ireland next week, in a last chance to prove his fitness and form before the World Cup. If he does, his plane ticket will be on the line.

Joe Root far from his best

Root’s return to the ODI format was far from what England are used to from him. His first three innings all ended in single-figure scores and his final was a painful 29 off 40 balls in which he was dropped twice. It’s not necessarily the lack of runs that will concern England but Root’s appearance at the crease. He looked painfully out of touch in all four innings, missing his reverse scoops and unable to tick the run rate over at his usual run a ball. Root’s class is clearly not in dispute, neither is that he will inevitably find form at some point during the World Cup. But how many games pass before he comes good has a question mark hanging over it.

Injuries mounting but New Zealand still look a World Cup force

New Zealand suffered four concerning injuries within the space of the first hour at Lord’s. Thankfully, Mitchell’s dislocated finger was an easy fix and he was fit to bat later on. Glenn Phillips’s hand injury also proved to be a false alarm. Most devastating however is the news that captain Tim Southee has both broken and dislocated his right thumb. With the World Cup less than three weeks away, it’s hard to imagine he’ll have recovered enough to bowl in New Zealand’s tournament opener against England.

Injuries and series scoreline aside, however, there were plenty of positives for New Zealand coming out of the series. Mitchell looked in imperious form as ever against England, and a century for Conway shows his touch. Trent Boult looked reborn back in New Zealand colours, as did Kyle Jamieson at Lord’s. With Kane Williamson still to return, the signs point towards a strong chance at the tournament for the Black Caps.