Shove Michael Vaughan down to number six – that’s where England keep their worst batsman.
Paul Collingwood seems likely to lose his place. He has another innings, but does he honestly look like a man who’ll make use of it? It’s the latest chapter in England’s number six saga and after Tim Ambrose’s brief appearance in the slot, the chapters are getting shorter.
Where other nations value their number six batsman, England use it as a dumping ground for the newest arrival to the team, the most likely departure from it, or, in the case of Ambrose, whoever’s left over.
South Africa have vehement letter C denier, AB de Villiers, batting at six. India have VVS Laxman. India’s number sixes have averaged 13 runs more than England’s since 2000. Even Bangladesh’s average more and you’re not even supposed to include Bangladesh when you talk about Test cricket, because it’s an unwritten rule that they don’t count.
Vaughan won’t move to six, because he’ll see it as a demotion, but that’s because of the way England treat the slot. If number six weren’t such a tainted limbo, maybe the fall of the fourth wicket wouldn’t send such shockwaves through the side and maybe the earlier batsmen wouldn’t live in constant fear of that.
England v South Africa, third Test at Edgbaston, day one
England 231 all out (Alastair Cook 76, Ian Bell 50, Jacques Kallis 3-31, Andre Nel 3-47)
South Africa 38-1