The number six doorway

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2 minute read

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.

  1. Encourage the current batsmen to be more flexible in terms of their approach
  2. Replace a batsman or batsmen
  3. 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.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. Why is it compulsory for Matt Prior to bat at 7, even though he is probably the most consistent performer in the middle order at the moment (recent Lord’s test notwithstanding)?

    1. Exactly. Prior should certainly bat up the order. He is not technically deficient, scores runs quickly, and injects some joie de vivre (and other French words) in the process.

    2. Because Prior is very good where he is and not buggering that up is a good plan.

    3. And then the Lord sayeth unto Moses, “Hey, where d’you think you’re going? I’ve got one more. Number 11 – Thou shalt have an attacking wicket keeper batsman, and he shalt play at number 7.”

      And Moses replyeth, “Not sure about that second “shalt” in there, Lord. Possibly overdoing things a bit.”

      And the Lord sayeth back, “Don’t change the subject! For verily there shall come amongst you one who is special, and he shall be called Gil-Christ, and he shall changeth the game with the way he playeth, and people shall stand in awe at his magnificence, even as they laugheth at his teammate with the stupid chest. AND HE SHALL PLAYETH AT NUMBER SEVEN AND NOWHERE ELSE! And after that they will all want one like him, and they will become obsessed with the idea.”

      And Moses spaketh, “OK, no need to shout, I get the idea. Actually, I reckon you’ve got much more chance with that one working than the adultery one. Oh, by the way, any chance of having someone play tests who sounds like my name in a comedy Jewish accent, just for a laugh?”

    4. :-))

      The journey from “Prior perhaps batting higher than 7” to “Moises Henriques getting selected to play test cricket for the Aussies” is but a few small steps, once Bert gets on the case.

    5. But what if Bell is infectedeth with a pestilence? Or St. Andrew insisteseth on a night watchman? Oh, in that case bat whereever.

    6. Brilliant, Bert. Sometimes I feel the sole purpose of other commenters here is to set you up.

  2. KC, you could add the last line of this article to any of your musings.

    Actually, you could add it to anything, ever. None of it matters.

    Happy Wednesday, everyone.

    1. I can see the advert now.

      “King Cricket – By the way, this probably doesn’t matter.”

  3. I understand your logic KC, but why not Cook? He’s adept at changing his approach (the ODI reneissance a case in point), so why not ask him to be pro-active if set and if he’s lasted the first session?

    1. Well, mainly because he might not be there, so it’s a conditional plan. Also, why ask him to play other than how he himself thinks is most appropriate when there’s another batsman who would do that by default?

      In truth, this article’s more about the politics of 4-6 rather than the mechanics of it. The only reason why Jonny Bairstow can’t bat at four is because it would be perceived as a slight against Joe Root. Why should that be?

  4. Agree with that, KC. Even worse in India – fielding positions > Pujara will not be in forward short leg for long, because he will be a senior and will be in the slips. hierarchy at play here.

    1. Our mate went to Portmeirion the other day and was disappointed by the lack of pottery. Is that normal?

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