Do England need a bit more oomph from their opening batsmen?

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Photo by Sarah Ansell

Last week, writing about Alastair Cook, George Dobell briefly made the case that he maybe isn’t the easiest guy to open the batting with.

The gist of the argument is that Cook’s quite a passive batsman and “novice openers see the scoreboard going nowhere and bowlers allowed to settle into spells.”

That’s quite persuasive, but it strikes us that it cuts both ways. Maybe Alastair Cook doesn’t especially benefit from trying to do his thing alongside a load of nervous, uncertain pseudo-debutants. Maybe Alastair Cook doesn’t like the scoreboard going nowhere and bowlers allowed to settle into spells.

By this point we probably have to accept that Alastair Cook isn’t going to metamorphosise into Virender Sehwag, so there is no obvious solution to this. Not unless some new combative opener sashays into the side, brimming with a confidence that simply cannot be quashed.

Were that to happen, it would be great, because we do feel that were England to somehow come up with a half decent opening combination, a lot of the subsequent collapses would be nipped in the bud. Poor starts are a problem exacerbated by the nature of England’s middle-order, which almost exclusively comprises players you’d tend to think of as stroke-makers.

Yes, you could add someone more lumpen to the middle order but that seems to us to be akin to the placing of a bucket to address leaky pipework. Surely it’s far better to address the root problem and have, um, a steady flow of runs directly into the sink…

Essentially, good opening partnerships would set the scene for a bunch of batsmen who greatly benefit from having scenes set for them.

The statistical backdrop to this

Cook and Keaton Jennings put on 54 in the first innings at Nottingham. This was the most sizeable opening partnership since Cook and Mark Stoneman put on 58 against the West Indies almost exactly a year ago.

We have to go back another full year for a start better than that one – 80 from Cook and Jennings against South Africa. The last 100-run opening partnership came in December 2016 against India (Cook and Jennings again).

On the other hand…

They collapsed in most of those innings too, so maybe England are just out-and-out terrible at batting.


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    1. Do sledgehammers have scabbards? Surely they’re not a great shape. There’d be a lot of wasted space.

  1. To pose the question differently, would Cook benefit from having Cook open the batting with him?

    1. I thought, KC is hinting that Root should open with Cook and fill the rest with all rounders & keepers

  2. Does the Cook needs a spicy ingredient? The dish is too bland right now and also lean most of the time

    1. Cook seems unable to get his finest creations out to the market where they are required for consumption. Dropping the Porter seems unlikely to remedy this.

  3. I thought Hales, Duckett even Lyth were experiments towards more oomph? More runs is key, at any level of oomph, after this series though 🙂

    1. Re Cook vis a vis his opening partner, I love the old (probably apocryphal) story about Boycott shocked to find that his batting partner had changed, a full hour after the event.

    2. The point about oomph is that the paralysis may be preventing the runs.

      What England really need is a right-hander who likes a quick single.

  4. Getting to 80 for 4 and then the all rounders taking the total past 300 is a five strategy in my opinion, don’t think they should change it. It gives the opposition hope and then slowly takes it away, totally demoralising them. Lack of runs from Stokes was stopping them from executing this plan but now that Stokes is back among runs, they shouldn’t change anything with that batting order.

      1. Looks like the selectors are in favour as well, with Vince parachuted in for a nervy twenty-odd before nicking off.

  5. Hello friends. I made up a joke yesterday. Here is my joke.

    Q: What is the best method for delivering a baby born to a pair of 1990s English cricketers in the event of a labour which is not progressing as quickly as planned?

    A: Vaughan-Twose

      1. I just Googled “Suction cup baby extraction device cricketer confusion jokes” (in quotes) and it would seem Sam has the monopoly. Anyhow, must dash, the FBI seem to be at the door.

  6. It makes one wish that one of the ODI opening batsmen were in the team, perhaps one unburdened by specialist fielding duties.

    1. I was going to post that when the thread started, then thought “nah they’ll never do that, and anyway it’s mad.”

      At least I know I’m not alone in my madness. But they’ll still never do it.

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