England’s options as they seek a solution to top-order woes
England’s Lord’s defeat at the hands of India is set to force another round of deliberation over the faltering top-order.
An awkward trend of consistently offering up two quick wickets has become an unwanted hallmark of the Test team and head coach Chris Silverwood is desperate to shake it.
Here the PA news agency looks at the various solutions England might ponder.
England dropped Zak Crawley for this Test after a year of poor scoring and there is a chance Silverwood will let the reshaped top three have another chance to bed in at Headingley. Rory Burns is probably safe for now, having started the summer with a century against New Zealand and chipped in with 49 at Lord’s, but his collection of ducks is growing too fast for comfort. Dom Sibley, on the other hand, feels close to the edge. He averages 19.77 this year and appears to be battling technical flaws. Haseeb Hameed’s return was a tough one but he can expect more than one match after five years out.
Shuffle the existing pack
If Sibley has run out of road, then one option would be to promote Hameed to his preferred position opening the batting and slot Crawley back in at first drop. This may be seen as the path of least resistance, leaving each of the top order in their most regular batting spots while also taking an off-form player out of the firing line. What it also does is place a lot of hope on one player (Crawley) who was axed only a week ago and another (Hameed) who came within a few inches of bagging a pair in his comeback appearance.
Promote from within
Of the squad that started the week at Lord’s, there are three potential options to take a turn at number three. Jonny Bairstow has filled the spot before, making a fine hundred in Colombo, but has been moved up and down the order on countless occasions. It was hoped he would have a chance to settle at five. The Australian response would be to push Joe Root up one place, matching the best player with the most troublesome position. He may yet relent but has made no secret of preferring number four while captaining. With five centuries this year, England might be wary of tinkering with their only real banker. That leaves Ollie Pope, long anointed as Root’s heir and fit again after injury. On the down side, he has had almost no track record above number five and when he was released to Surrey this week was dismissed for one in the Royal London Cup.
Hit the comeback trail
Dawid Malan, James Vince, Adam Lyth and Joe Denly have all had opportunities over the years but may be looking at the current travails and wondering if they could improve on them. Malan scored 199 in his only red-ball appearance for Yorkshire this season, Vince seemed to turn a corner with a long-awaited first England hundred in the one-day series against Pakistan, Lyth is a consistent run-scorer on the domestic circuit and Denly’s previous run with England no longer looks quite so bad. The problem? All four have been playing in The Hundred for the past few weeks and throwing them into a Test match would be risky.
Overtime for the chef?
It is three years since Sir Alastair Cook headed into international retirement with a farewell century against India. He is still going with Essex, and made scores of 110 and 68 during the Lord’s Test, but a recall is the stuff of fantasy.
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