Enough of the eye-catching swing bowling. What is this website for if not for accentuating the negative? Let’s focus on England’s batting.
We still haven’t really settled on a firm opinion regarding England’s approach in the first Test. We’d probably grade it ‘acquiescent’. We don’t think it was as bad as some are making out, but nor do we think it was acceptable in the conditions. Run-scoring was hard and basically they just seemed to accept that.
The problem is that the top five are all primarily reactive batsmen. They play according to the situation. They don’t particularly look to shape it. For any given batsman, that’s a perfectly valid approach, but five of them in a row feels like washing your hands of responsibility and handing the match outcome over to fate.
If England want to address that, we see three main options.
- Encourage the current batsmen to be more flexible in terms of their approach
- Replace a batsman or batsmen
- Shuffle the batting order
Number one is probably not particularly realistic. Alastair Cook has shown adaptability via other formats, but his Test approach is grooved and successful and this is perhaps even more true of Jonathan Trott. Nick Compton and Joe Root should be left to their own way of doing things at this early stage and Ian Bell is just Ian Bell. He responds to public desires like a balloon to the point of a knife.
Option two seems harsh on any of those five, even if there appears to be fundamental dissatisfaction with Compton from some quarters. People are incredibly quick to talk about dropping him, even though he’s made two hundreds in his last four Tests.
People assume that option three isn’t a goer because of the unwritten rule that says that batting positions four to six in the England team are decided based on seniority. Whoever’s most established in the Test team bats at four and the sixth choice batsman bats at six.
Why does this have to be the case?
Jonny Bairstow is the only current England batsman who is at all proactive in approach, so he could potentially draw a line under top order automatism through appearing at four, possibly influencing the innings as a consquence. Furthermore, if he’s the one most likely to be dropped when Kevin Pietersen returns, doesn’t it make a degree of sense to have him batting in Pietersen’s position? Why does number six have to be the only doorway in and out of England’s middle order.
By the way, this probably doesn’t matter.