Chittagong: England captain Andrew Strauss is staying tight-lipped over his new opening partner for the World Cup clash against Bangladesh amid growing speculation over who it will be.
Strauss needs a new partner for the rest of the tournament after Kevin Pietersen, who had opened in the first four matches, returned home to undergo hernia surgery.
The free-scoring Pietersen revelled in his new position, contributing to stands of 105, 68 and 91 in the first three games.
"I am very clear in my mind who will open, but will not say before the game has started," Strauss said ahead of Friday's day-night game at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury stadium in Chittagong.
"We are not nailed on playing the same combination all through. There is no reason why we can't change."
The choice is likely to be limited to Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara or wicket-keeper Matt Prior, who are all essentially middle-order batsmen but capable of having a hit at the start.
Bell is an accomplished batsman and Bopara scored a man-of-the-match winning 60 against South Africa, but it could be the hard-hitting Prior who opens the innings against Bangladesh.
Strauss also refused to comment on speculation that England will play a third slow bowler in off-spinner James Tredwell to partner Graeme Swann and left-armer Michael Yardy.
"We will pick the right side," the captain said. "We need to judge how the wicket will play. Past experience suggests there has been equal support for spinners and seamers."
England will book an early ticket to the quarterfinals if they beat Bangladesh and the West Indies down Ireland in Mohali earlier on Friday.
Strauss was under no illusion that it would be an easy game for England, despite a 13-1 record against their rivals, including six straight wins on Bangladeshi soil.
"Bangladesh are an absolutely dangerous side, especially at home," he said. "We are aware it's a must-win game for them and that will make them even more dangerous.
"Bangladeshi spinners are quality bowlers. And the crowd will be 100 percent behind them. It is going to be a hostile atmosphere for us, but if we want to win the World Cup we must play well in every environment."
England are reeling under the twin blows of losing both Pietersen and fast bowler Stuart Broad for the rest of the tournament due to injuries.
The duo has been replaced by left-hand batsman Eoin Morgan and giant fast bowler Chris Tremlett, who are both available for Friday's game.
"The loss is not ideal by any means," said Strauss. "Thankfully, Morgan has recovered from his finger injury and Tremlett has been here with us for some time.
"What is certain is that if they play, they will have to hit the ground running."
England have had a rollercoaster ride so far, with two close wins over the Netherlands and South Africa, a tied game against India and an embarrassing loss to Ireland.
"It's been thrilling to have been involved in some close games," said Strauss. "Personally, I would have liked them to be a lot easier. I probably would have a little more hair on my head."