England’s white ball cricketers fly off to New Zealand in two weeks’ time. This means that Joe Denly, the only player in the T20 squad who played in the 5th Ashes test, only had approximately five weeks off before the international treadmill started again. I hope he enjoyed that brief time with his wife and new baby. I wonder if he’s irked by the fact that Root, Buttler and Archer were all rested for the first leg of the tour?
Anyway I digress. Denly will almost certainly be part of England’s top 6 when the first test at Bay Oval begins on 25th November. But where he’ll bat is anyone’s guess. I wouldn’t be too surprised if he opens with Rory Burns.
Most people have Dom Sibley inked in for this role but we’ve come to expect the unexpected when it comes to England’s batting order. Maybe they think that Jack Leach is the answer at the top of the order, and Burns will bowl some left arm spin? Ahem.
One thing does seem certain though. Now that Jos Buttler has been given the gloves, I think it’s a safe bet that he’ll bat 7. Personally I think this is a shame.
I’ve long argued that Buttler should bat in England’s top 6 (preferably at 5) and prove his worth as a specialist batsman. By making him keeper, even though he’s an average gloveman at best, Ed Smith has found a way to give the signature selection of his tenure more time to prove himself with the willow. One can only guess what Ben Foakes makes of it all.
With Buttler at 7 this means there will six batsmen competing for five places, as Ben Stokes is nailed on to appear in the top six. Although, a bit like Denly, he could feature in numerous positions depending on which way the wind happens to be blowing at that particular time.
Let’s remind ourselves who these six batsmen are: Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Joe Root, Joe Denly, and Ollie Pope. It will be interesting to see who scores the most runs. Check out https://bookmakers.net/betway if you fancy putting your money where your mouth is. Betway usually have generous odds on who the leading scorer in the series will be.
If I was a betting man then I’d put money on Crawley being the one to miss out. He’s the youngest batsman on the tour (he’s a month and one day younger than Pope) and he had the least prolific domestic season.
I’ve heard some argue that Crawley is simply in the squad for experience, so he can be exposed to ‘the international environment’. But I’m not so sure about this. There are only 15 guys in the squad so Crawley needs to be ready to play if there’s an injury.
What’s more, we don’t know how the players will shape up in practice. Maybe Sibley will have a complete mare in the nets and the management will feel that Crawley is a better option? However, for the sake of argument, I’m going to predict that it’s either Sibley or Crawley – and the Warwickshire man will get the nod.
My entirely unscientific process of elimination leaves us with Sibley, Burns, Root, Denly, and Pope to fit in around Stokes.
So how is this going to work? I’m going to make another leap into the dark by suggesting that Stokes will bat 5 and Pope will complete England’s top 6 in the final batting berth. Why? Because Pope looked a little out of his depth at 4 against India last summer so I think they’ll try to accommodate him somewhere a little lower. What’s more, with Buttler keeping wicket at 7 (which means we’ll only have room for four specialist bowlers) I think Stokes will have to bowl his fair share of overs; therefore moving him up to 3 or 4 doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Consequently the management will be left with the simple (or not so simple) task of arranging the remaining players – Burns, Sibley, Root, and Denly – into a sensible top order. How will they do this? I can hear the cogs in your brain revolving from here. However, let me make this task easier by predicting that Root will return to 4.
Personally I think it’s inevitable this will happen. Root has always wanted to bat 4, he’s better at 4, he had a difficult Ashes summer batting at 3, and his career statistics now make the case unanswerable …
Joe averages just 38 (in 49 innings) at 3, and 48 (in 61 innings) at 4. It’s as obvious as the nose on Bill Lawry’s face that he bats better the further down the order he goes. It’s amazing that it’s taken almost fifty innings for people to figure this out. In an ideal world I’d bat Root at 5, where he averages 71 in (29 innings).
So what does this all mean? Basically I reckon that Joe Denly will return to No.3, where he’ll serve as a placeholder for a better batsman with a longterm future, and England will invest in a new opening partnership of Burns and Sibley.
This means that England’s top 6 is likely to shape up as follows, with Buttler and then Woakes or Curran next: Burns, Sibley, Denly, Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler, Woakes, Leach, Archer, Broad.
Have I got this one right? Or am I as wide of the mark as Steve Harmison’s first ball at Brisbane?
Written in collaboration with Bookmakers.net
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