Can you believe it’s 5 years since Andrew Strauss retired from all forms of cricket?
This fact amazes me both in itself (it feels like yesterday!) and also in the struggles to replace him that England have not yet overcome.
Alastair Cook went his whole England captaincy without a solid opening partner, having gone through 12 by the time of the test match in Headingley last week. That’s also a totally remarkable stat and even though it has been remarked on a lot in the media, I think it’s still worth pausing to consider.
Interestingly, three of those 12 partners have been successful elsewhere in the order for England: Joe Root, whose mastery is best placed lower down the order; Jonathan Trott in his comeback in the Caribbean, but again, a player who when fit was always a solid number three; Moeen Ali was another odd one from the selectors but once more a batsman making greater impact lower down the order.
Aside from these three, it’s difficult to really remember that many defining moments. Arguably Compton was most impressive with his New Zealand centuries, but there seem to be all sorts of reasons for his removal from the setup. Hales of course had always floated around the white ball sides and done relatively well there, but hasn’t yet lived up to his promise. Adam Lyth may not have been the youngest when he was picked, but in general there have been concerted efforts by England to find a batsman to replace Cook by selecting someone of a similar age to the Chef when he made his debut back in 2006.
This just hasn’t worked: young batsman picked on the basis of county championship runs; young batsman may or may not have initial success in the first few test match innings – more likely not, really; young batsman finds himself found out by the opposition within four innings and is subsequently dropped.
Hameed by all accounts was the most natural and confident in his stint as a batsman but since the thumb injury on tour everything has gone quiet. He’s not having a great county season and I’m not sure the England camp know (or want to explain) why.
It is easy to forget that Cook was called up to full England duty from the Lions tour, and it seems that the Lions team needs a bit more consistency if it is going to fulfil its purpose of preparing younger players for the biggest stage.
There’s no doubt that England are going to hit an even trickier patch when Anderson and Broad don’t have the power in their bodies anymore, and we’re going to need to re-examine our national setup to determine whether that’s just natural bad timing, or whether England’s boom years papered over the cracks of an underachieving feeder system.
This winter is going to be hugely challenging, and England will need a reliable opening batsman to pose any threat. I don’t mind who it is, but I do hope the selectors get it right.
Oh and if you were racking your brains or about to hit Google, the others are Carberry, Robson, Duckett, Jennings and Stoneman.