On the third afternoon of Lord’s test England were 111-6; still 68 runs behind Pakistan and with only tailenders left with Joss Butler. They were facing an utter humiliation from hands of young Pakistani team who were expected to struggle badly in English Condition. While Pakistan need to be appreciated for the quality of Cricket they played but there can’t be an argument that England were best at being mediocre, a quality they have very well adapted since Indian tour way back in November 2016.
We look at the areas which have been a headache for them during the period and the options available.
Top Three: To be honest, England have not been able to find a suitable partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in September 2012. However, things have gone from bad to worse as Keaton Jennings(294 runs in 6 tests at 24.50), and Mark Stoneman (526 runs in 11 tests at 27.68) have failed to provide an answer to the problem while Haseeb Hameed has gone woefully out of form in county cricket after a promising start.
Even Alastair Cook has scored 1411 runs at 38.13 in 20 tests, but the problem runs so deep that he remains safe for the time. N0. 3 is another position which is still to be nailed. Tom Westley(193 runs at 24.12 in 5 tests), James Vince(336 runs at 30.54 in 6 tests) Gary Ballance (85 runs at 21.25 in 2 tests) and Ben Duckett (18 runs at 6.00 in 2 tests) has been tried and tested for the crucial position but none have provided the answer. The situation has forced captain Joe Root to move up the order at No. 3. During the period Root is the only batsman to have an average above 40 (1812 runs at 50.33 in 20 tests)
Solution: 27-year-old Surrey’s Rory Burn and Middlesex Nic Gubbins are likely to replace Mark Stoneman and partner Cook. In fact, both of them can be selected to open, and Cook may move to no.3 with Root at No.4. It will not only reduce burden off Cook but will give chance to England to built life after him. It will ensure Root play at his preferred No.4 position.
The Middle Order (5,6 and 7): While Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes make a good No. 5 & 6 respectively and with Joss Butler showing test mettle at Lord, this looks the strength of the team, but there is still a feeling England need a batsman in this order who can play long innings.
Solution: Joe Clarke from Worcestershire has shown a glimpse of what he can offer for the national team. His 157 against Surrey at the Oval was the kind of innings that coach Trevor Bayliss would dearly love to see for England.
The Bowling: One of the primary reason for England’s failure during last 18 months has been their bowlers’ inability to bowl the opposition out for low scores. While James Anderson has been excellent during the period (72 wickets in 18 tests at 21.26), but Stuart Broad’s lack of effectiveness (51 wickets in 18 tests at 33.90) and the absence of potent third seamer have made the job tougher.
The failure of consistent performances from Chris Woakes (15 wickets in 9 tests at 64.53), Craig Overton (7 wickets in 3 tests at 42.57),Mark Wood ( 5 wickets in 4 tests at 78.40) Jake Ball ( 2 wickets in 3 tests at 127.50), Tom Curran (2 Wickets in 2 Test at 100) is one of the reason of England’s below par performance . Injuries have also caused a lot of worries as Toby Roland Jones who looked like grasping the third seamer spot was out for a year due to a stress fracture. Stev Finn and Jake Overton were also out due to injury.
Solution: 25-year-old Essex seamer Jamie Porter who was highest wicket-taker last year in division one can be one option. Porter has 225 wickets in 57 matches at an impressive average of 23.70, Yorkshire’s Ben Coad, Tom Bailey can be others who can take over the third seamer role, especially Coad has been in form this season. England’s spin woes solution rest on Dom Bess and the speedier return of Jack leach who has impressed everyone in New Zealand by his control.
English cricket is in middle of a mediocre spell. Last 18 months have taken them to 1989-1999, an era quite famous for England’s abysmal performance, the question is can England bounce back from a Humpty Dumpty ride, or we will witness a repeat of summer of 1999?