England's biggest dilemma: Who should open in Tests?
England's biggest issue, at the moment, is their openers. Time and again the solidity required atop, in Tests, has been missing. One can infer that this is also the number one reason for their dismal performance in recent times. Their openers are badly out of form and in the ongoing Test series against India, the issues have accentuated. Let's decode the scenario.
The ongoing series against India highlights the problem
England openers weren't able to crack the code against India in the first three Tests. On Thursday, as well, duck by Keaton Jennings saw the poor run of partnerships continue. Across 7 innings so far, the pair of Alastair Cook and Jennings have only added 144 runs. Their best was 54 in the 3rd Test at Nottingham. The average of 20.57 tells the story.
Jennings has failed to build on his chances
The scores of Jennings in the ongoing Test series read- 42, 8, 11, DNB, 20, 13 and 0. 94 runs across six innings, at the international level, in Test cricket is unacceptable. The bigger issue is that England are playing at home and yet Jennings is struggling. He replaced Mark Stoneman, who was dropped post the first Test against Pakistan.
Cook hasn't been good either
Keaton's partner Cook is also going through a rough patch. Barring a 244* against Australia in 2017-18 Ashes, Cook has been a shadow of himself. He has managed 97 runs across 6 innings against India including 17-run knock in the fourth Test. The veteran struggled against New Zealand and Australia as well. Against Pakistan in May, he got starts but failed to convert them.
Stoneman himself has had a difficult summer
England don't have many options to fall upon and the only alternative, Stoneman is also struggling with the bat. He managed two half-centuries in the Ashes and then had a decent show against New Zealand. But failure at Lord's against Pakistan led to ECB dropping him. His outings for Surrey haven't gone according to plans since then. England will need to think beyond Stoneman.
Who can open for England?
England need to think smartly and find someone within the side to come atop and deliver. Jonny Bairstow can be a sound option, given that he opens the batting for the side in ODIs. Bairstow is one of the rare English players in form recently and it's vital that they think out of the box. Perhaps he could replace Jennings in the fifth Test.