England's ODI team were generally greeted with criticism after their semi-final exit in the Champions Trophy earlier this summer, with a number of pundits stating the hosts should have gone all the way on home soil.
Ex-England captain Michael Atherton has recently given his verdict on the current England ODI setup and how Eoin Morgan's side are progressing in One Day International format.
"So the fact that they got to a semi-final and we're seeing that as a relative failure, that is the measure of the improvement that they've made." Atherton argued.
Jonny Bairstow, in particular, was seen to have really stepped up his level of performance in England's ODI games in 2017, with a brilliant two centuries being produced during the series win over the West Indies.
Atherton believes competition for these places, especially in opening the batting, is starting to bring the best out of England's setup. Examples of this include Bairstow's aforementioned improvement in scoring once Jason Roy was dropped due to poor form.
Additionally in turn, when Roy was recalled to start the batting once Alex Hales became available, he flourished with scores of 84 and 96 in his returning two innings.
"That's why the competition within the team is so crucial, to keep pushing this team forward and keep progressing. Everybody knows it is tough to get in, everybody wants to get in because they know it is a good team to play in, they're winning games and therefore they are going to be very determined when they get the opportunity.".
Atherton is of the opinion that should Alex Hales be allowed to play come next year's ODI fixtures against Australia, he should be opening the batting for England.
This just leaves one batter to partner Hales in Atherton's eyes, that man must be Jonny Bairstow as the former England captain argues.
He added: "Roy is quite explosive at the start, more eye-catching but I think Bairstow in all conditions is a better player, he is going to be more consistent.
"If you're looking at a team developing and trying to win in all conditions then there is no reason why he can't keep opening. Remember he's not got the gloves, so he is not burdened by the physicality of having to keep wicket, Jos Buttler is doing that, so there is no reason why he can't keep opening."
Although a long way off, the ODI first team selection is coming under great discussion already as it is a team with the potential to cause real damage internationally and Atherton firmly believes that the intense competition in the squad will be for the better.
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