Struggling To Build Big Partnerships:-
This has been a general consensus that limited overs cricket has affected test match batting to some extent. The main attribute to long format batting is creating partnerships for sessions to frustrate bowling attacks. But, if we look at England’s batting performance this summer, there hasn’t been a single partnership which lasted more than a session or two.
The understanding is that likes of Root, Stokes, Bairstow, Ali, etc. are good one-day performers and hence their test batting doesn’t have the patience required. Skipper Root played good innings of 190 in the first test vs South Africa but since then, hasn’t looked too threatening to stay at the crease for long periods. He has scores of 5,78 and 8 in the next three innings.
The opening pair of Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings have also failed to click so far. Only one 50+ partnership with Cook getting to a fifty once. Gary Ballance was literally picked to prove himself once again after continued opportunities early on in his career. But, the player hasn’t done much to prove his worth. The main attribute of a number 3 batsman is to rebuild an innings if an early wicket falls, then build a partnership either with an opener or with the number 4.
But, to Ballance’s poor show, he hasn’t done any of that. He has scores of 20, 34, 27 and 4 which makes a sorry reading. The middle order of Bairstow, Stokes and Ali look confused with their shot selection. They either try to hit out of pressure which isn’t sensible against a bowling attack as South Africa’s or tend to bog down too much which makes it easier for bowlers to bowl at a particular length.
All the three have a fifty to their name in the first test but failed to deliver in the second. Probably not knowing how to handle a tough situation in a test match. The middle and lower middle seem to capitulate very easily lacking partnerships and patience.
Few changes might rectify the problem:-
Well, Root and England selectors relied on Jennings and Ballance to perform in that number 2 and 3 roles. But, so far the plan has backfired. Both batsmen have no fifties to show and look toothless at times to counter the Proteas bowling attack. A change is required as per current situation.
The middle order barring Root also doesn’t seem settled with either of Bairstow or Stokes taking turns to score and not firing in unison. Shaking up this batting lineup has to be done before its too late.
According to some reports, skipper Joe Root and coach Trevor Bayliss are planning to give Mark Stoneman his deserved debut to open the batting with Cook. This will mean Jennings at number three and Ballance down to number five. Jennings at three and Ballance at five will probably be their last chances in the coming two test matches. As of now, the understanding is that Dawson will be left out and Ali will play as a front-line spinning allrounder.
England’s inconsistency problem has been perennial especially in test match batting. They have to find a stable batting lineup which can bat long and also score big runs. Few test-minded players are needed who think only about five-day cricket. Too many limited-over players will only make batting light.