England’s Top 6 For New Zealand

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?

James Morgan

Written in collaboration with Bookmakers.net

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  • Denly will be content with 2 or 3, whilst Crawley has to open. Kent played him lower down to start with, but he can’t stand waiting to bat.

    So I agree they will go Burns,Sibley, Denly, Root with Crawley ready to step in if needed.

    Crawley would then open, and Sibley or Denly would bat at 3.

    • I haven’t seen much at all of Crawley – one white balll game only – but I thought he looked awful. The right hand came over and he hit everything towards midwicket. Tell me that he doesn’t do this all the time, please!

  • Maybe try Denly and Crawley to open with Burns at 3? No points at stake I believe, so use the tour to find a top order that does occasionaly get beyond 50!

  • I think you have this pretty much right. The likelihood of him having to bowl a full ration of overs means that Stokes cannot also be put in a top order batting sport, while Root definitely needs to drop at least one place from no 3. The presence of Sibley alongside Burns at the top at least offers the promise of some sort of stability in that area. Given what happened at the start of the last England tour of NZ expect some ironic cheers when the England first innings score reaches 59!

  • Looks about right to me. I think it’s quite an exciting batting line up actually, I’m really pleased to see some fresh faces. Not too sure about Woakes outside of home conditions but I guess NZ is reasonably similar.

    • Woakes took 0/107 on the last tour of NZ (in the match where England were bowled out in a session) and was dropped for the next game. Still, we’ll probably hear the same thing when we get to SA and his record of two wickets for nearly 200 there last time will be flushed down the memory-hole as well.

      BTW let’s not hear anything about England losing the last series in NZ “because of one bad session”. England could still have saved the first Test; England could have won the second Test (all they had to do was dismiss batting legends Sodhi and Wagner in about 200 deliveries).

  • Well Sibley has to open just by his performance this last season. Not really sure why Crawley is picked. Butler is his counties 3 choice keeper and shows it, and 7 is too low because he’ll be batting with the tail. Still don’t understand why Foakes is out of favour.

    • It’s interesting that India have been picking Saha over Pant as the moment because the former is a better pure keeper at this stage. Saha had a great game in the recent win against SA.

  • To be fair, Ollie Pope has batted really well for Surrey at 4 all season – it’s not like last year when he batted 6 for Surrey then came in at 4 against India. I think there’s a fairly decent chance we’ll see him at 5 and Stokes at 6 – could be either way round though! I also think Curran is more likely to start than Woakes purely based on his performance in the last Test.

  • I would hope that after the shambles of messing about with the batting order to little effect during the Ashes, some semblance of logic will have dictated the makeup of this squad, though I doubt Smith will be content with logic, as he likes to be seen as a left field innovator, though I’ve seen no innovative successes from him.
    To me you pick players as far as possible to play in their club positions, as that’s where they performed to get selected in the first place. It’s a big enough challenge to move from county to international cricket without being encumbered by responsibilities you’re not used to. The present new boys will I fear will be seen as almost interchangeable, as that is clearly the ‘thinking’ if you can call it that, of the present brain’s trust.


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