3 men enter, 1 must leave
Test Match 3: Beyond the Traffordome. This time it's personnel
At the start of this summer I wrote that England only had 2 batsmen in the top 5 in any way established in the team. In England's victory at Old Trafford last week, those 2 batsmen Cook and Root scored 506 compared to Hales, Vince and Ballance's 65. In the First Test the three pretenders to the throne, only compiled 127 in 5 innings between them. It seems inevitable that one of Hales, Vince and Ballance will be dropped.
In May there was a big question mark over whether Alex Hales could transfer his ODI form into Test Cricket, particularly against the top teams. The answer to that question appears to be yes and no. The Nottinghamshire opener averaged 58 in the series against Sri Lanka but that was against one of the weakest bowling attacks in Test cricket. Against Pakistan, the doubts that many England supporters had have risen to the surface again. However, those runs in May should have bought Hales a little more time to prove himself.
Therefore it would seem to be a straight choice between Vince and Ballance. In 3 innings so far the Hampshire man has scored 76 to the Yorkshireman's 72. With such little difference in the last few weeks, it would seem wise to look at the manner of dismissals. Ballance was dropped after appearing susceptible to both very short and very full bowling. So far, he appears to have overcome these 2 demons and found other ways to get out. On the other hand Vince has continued to play airy drives outside the off stump and nicking to slips. This pattern of dismissal and a perceived inability to do anything about it will probably lead to James Vince being dropped.
So who could come in as a replacement? The choice seems to be between something old and something new. Scott Borthwick of Durham or veteran batsmen Ian Bell. Borthwick has batted impressively over the last 3 seasons and is a handy leg spinner, bringing variety into the attack. As for Bell, the Warwickshire playmaker must look at his various replacements in the England team failing and wonder why he was dropped. However, is a 2016 county average of 44 enough to bring him back into the fold? In his favour England have given Ballance another chance after averaging 33.
My instinct tells me that England will look to Borthwick as Ali fails to convince as a frontline spinner.