Out Of Order

It’s second test time. That means another five days (or perhaps just three) of my wife moaning at me for watching TV all day with my mobile phone in hand. Oh the joys of marital ‘bliss’.

Fortunately Edgbaston was worth the earache, and this Lord’s could be a beauty too. After all, two flawed sides is often a recipe for exciting and unpredictable cricket. You can check out a selection of different betting sites for odds but I think England have the momentum and should be slight favourites again, even without “the ginger one”.

As we saw in Birmingham, neither India nor England have reliable batting line-ups. India seem almost entirely reliant on Virat Kohli – even though they have some other decent players on paper – whilst England’s batting has been a mess for years. This has become something of a theme on the blog since about 2013.

So what, exactly, is wrong with England’s line-up? Or perhaps I should rephrase that. What exactly is right with it? Not a whole lot. The only thing we’ve got going for us is Joe Root plus the fact we bat deep – in theory at least.

Alastair Cook doesn’t look the same player; Jonny Bairstow’s test form has faltered since establishing himself in the white ball sides, and every other batsman has yet to prove himself at test level over a period of time. Basically it’s a shit storm.

The other thing that seems weird is the batting order itself. Other than the openers, one could make an argument that every other player is batting in the wrong place. Half of England supporters would prefer to see Joe Root bat 4, but that would leave a gaping hole at 3. So the management have decided that a gaping hole at 4 is marginally preferable.

Then there’s the Jonny conundrum. Is 5 too high for a wicket-keeper? Personally I think it’s one spot too high but beggars can’t be choosers. If England were to move Bairstow down a spot then we’ll have two gaping holes in a row.

The big question going into Lord’s is where England’s new young gun Ollie Pope will bat. Most pundits wrote that he will bat 4 in a straight swap for the deposed Dawid. However, this seems like a big ask to me; therefore I’d much rather he bats down the order.

But where exactly? Six seems like a natural spot for Pope but then where will everyone else go? Surely it should be Jos Buttler, a luxury at 7, who should take responsibility for batting 4. He is the vice captain after all.

With Chris Woakes replacing Ben Stokes, who is facing the music in court this week rather than facing India’s bowlers, there’s suddenly a vacancy at 6 which the precocious Pope should fill. Woakes can then slot in a 7 – a position he’s ideally suited to. Any higher and he might get a nose bleed.

The wildcard in all this, however, could be Moeen Ali. What if Ed Smith springs a surprise and decides to pick two spinners? We shouldn’t forget that Moeen has batting at 4 for England before. In fact, he scored a century in India batting up the order a couple of winters ago.

Mooen is a musical chairs expert so he’ll feel comfortable wherever England bat him. However, because Ed is wedded to Jos Buttler, and I reckon there’s zero chance England will leave out Smith’s new toy Pope, I can’t see a place for Ali in the line-up unless Woakes is omitted.

I’d be interested to know what everyone thinks. Picking a batting order for this game is a tough task. What order would you guys choose?

If it was up to me – and I think we can all thank the Lord that it isn’t – I’d probably go with the following XI: Cook, Jennings, Root, Buttler, Bairstow, Pope, Woakes, Curran, Rashid, Broad, Anderson. This batting order still looks messier than Boris Johnson’s hair on paper, but we are where we are and I can’t see any alternative considering the squad selected.

James Morgan

Written in collaboration with SBR

2018-08-08T16:06:23+00:00August 8th, 2018|Eng v Ind 2018, Test Cricket|28 Comments


  1. jennyah46 August 8, 2018 at 8:48 am - Reply

    In an ideal world I would have Buttler at 7 with the gloves. Bairstow at 3 with Root at 4. Otherwise my batting order would be the same as yours.

  2. Paul August 8, 2018 at 8:50 am - Reply

    Is it possible to push Cook to 3 and get another opener instead? Rory Burns perhaps? Then Root & Bairstow could slot back to the postions they would be better at. I would also bat Curran ahead of Woakes, somehow I think the young lad would relish the challenge.

    • dangermash August 8, 2018 at 10:06 pm - Reply

      Like it but I’d leave out Buttler rather than going in with only four bowlers.

  3. Down At Third Man August 8, 2018 at 8:59 am - Reply

    Expect the unexpected.

    Edgbaston may not offer as much intelligence towards this match as perhaps thought. The frailty on show including that of catching stemmed to a large extent from the out of the ordinary conditions that provided prodigious swing including dipping and lifting edges. That green, almost saturated outfield, was a constant source of humidity under a burning sun. Plus still air that protected the layering of humidity levels above the pitch surface.

    Batsmen and fielders may perform far better in this Test – the swing available was also helpful to Ashwin who has revived the use of the old fashioned arm ball, not seen at this level in many years.

    It is Mick Hunt’s last test match wicket. Weather may have been hot and dry but a least predictably so. Could be a classic Hunt surface.

  4. Nigel August 8, 2018 at 9:04 am - Reply

    Bottom line is that we currently have an deeply unreliable opening partnership, with no obvious replacements (though plenty of possible alternatives). That in turn puts more pressure on 3, which is in any event the toughest batting position to fill – and again there is no obvious alternative to Root, who is far from a natural No.3.
    (Cook at 3 is a short term possibility, but it doesn’t solve anything.)

    Sort that conundrum, and there really isn’t a selection problem.

  5. Colin Kerr August 8, 2018 at 9:32 am - Reply

    One of the big problems at the moment is the England tail, in my opinion. There was a time when Anderson and Broad were adding valuable runs at the end of an innings but it seems those days are gone.

    • Nick August 8, 2018 at 9:49 am - Reply

      The Curran-Broad Partnership added 41 at Edgbaston, and England won by 31. Seems like great value to me

      • AndyB August 8, 2018 at 1:14 pm - Reply

        Broad has averaged 10.5 in 31 tests from 2016-18 (and only 6.7 in 6 tests this year). He is now a true tail ender and must make his case for selection based purely on his bowling or not at all.

    • Rupert August 8, 2018 at 9:55 am - Reply

      To be fair it’s not their jobs to be bailing out failing specialists. They’re bowlers after all. Even Broad in his heyday was only really a proficient slogger with a good eye. Even his century was in “that” match.

  6. Nick August 8, 2018 at 9:47 am - Reply

    I’m a huge Bairstow fan but I worry that five is too high even without the gloves as his answer to every question is to play bigger shots. If the top four were gun players I would be easier as the bowlers would be tired and a platform have been set, Jonny doesn’t have that luxury.

    I just hope England learn something from these games, It seems all England ever learn is that they need to try someone or something else. No idea what order they will bat in, It would be odd after all this fanfare if Pope didn’t play and he has said today he feels he can bat four and I can’t help to be excited about seeing him play.

    • Nick August 8, 2018 at 9:55 am - Reply

      I just want England to learn something positive about a member of the top six because the last four years have been dire since the Ashes in 13-14 England have had 26 Cricketers batted in the top six and if you take out the nightwatchmen, Gary Ballance still has the third best batting average (38) which tells a tale of the specialist picks debuts who generally live in the 27-24 batting average range

      Of the players who have stuck around Stokes and Bairstow average 37 (JB 42 Including 7) which is fine for bits and pieces all rounders but not for players taking batting slots, Joe Root who is getting abuse on twitter for not scoring enough hundreds averages 56.65 which is 14 runs ahead of Cook in second.

  7. AndyB August 8, 2018 at 9:58 am - Reply

    I cannot believe some of the comments here. Give Buttler the gloves when he is not even FC standard behind the stumps? Bat Curran above Woakes when Woakes has 9 FC centuries and a FC average 3 higher than Jos Buttler. There is no point accusing the idiot Smith of having favourites and toys if we play the same game of promoting players based on favouritism rather tha record.

    I do think James has missed one obvious option. Play one spinner, but make that spinner Ali. It is harsh on Rashid, but his record shows he is not test class as a spinner, Lords is hardly the home of spin, England needs to strengthen a fragile batting line up, and Ali is much the better bat of the two spinners. I am not saying this is the best option – but it should be in the mix for consideration.

    • Nick August 8, 2018 at 10:11 am - Reply

      In the Tests that both Rashid and Moeen have played in Rashid has 38 wickets to Moeen Ali’s 30 and Adil also has a lower bowling average so if the Cricket he has played so far show he isn’t Test Class then neither is Moeen.

      Mo has a better record at home of course but there isn’t data so say that Rashid wouldn’t make the same improvement, England need to try and learn something about players this summer and they know what they will get from Mo he has played 50+ Tests. Rashid has one played one in which he completed his bit part role well

      • AndyB August 8, 2018 at 1:07 pm - Reply

        I agree that Mo is not a test standard spinner…..but if the choice is between two spinners, neither of whom is test standard, then it makes sense to pick (much) the better bat in the current state of England batting, especially when there is little or nothing to choose between them in test average/strike rate/economy with the ball. If we are prepared to ignore the batting in choosing a spinner then it should be Leach – but no one is suggesting that because it would add a tail ender.

  8. Doug M August 8, 2018 at 10:01 am - Reply

    Forgetting the squad for the moment, my team suggestion in order would be:
    Burns, Jennings/Clarke, Cook, Root, Pope, Bairstow, Butler, Curran, Woakes, Leach/Rashid, Anderson.

    I’d prefer Clarke to Jennings. 4 is too high for Bairstow or Butler in my view. Despite his great knock at Edgbaston, Sam C isn’t a Test no 7 yet. If Leach is fit why is he not playing? I’d keep Cook for the moment but move him down to largely enable Root to play in his best position. Broad rested, but I think he is getting close to his sell by date, and can’t bat any more. Clarke also o ffers another bowling option.

    • AndyB August 8, 2018 at 2:24 pm - Reply

      Leach is not the chosen spinner because he is a true tailender which would result in England having natural no11’s batting at 9, 10 and 11 (Broad, Leach and Anderson). But I agree he is far and away the best spinner and that it is hard on him.

  9. Marce Evans August 8, 2018 at 10:13 am - Reply

    Don’t believe in messing much with a batting order at any level of the game, openers stay as openers. Would keep Pope at his normal no.6 and give the more experienced Butler, who is our most destructive strokeplayer, the traditional quality for a no.4, and I think wasted at 7, the Malan spot. Richards, Lara and Tendulkar were always happiest at 4. I like Malan but he’s not my idea of a no.4. Butler showed earlier in the season he can knuckle down and play the situation if we lose early wickets, whereas I’m not sure it’s in Bairstow’s makeup. Bairstow can then cover possible Butler failure at 5. You can see from the Indian’s reaction to Bairstow’s wicket how important It is to them. Don’t see what the fuss is about Root at 3, as he’s clearly our best technician and playing at 3 should increase his powers of concentration, the no.3 role primarily being to bat as long as possible and be the anchor for the innings. If we end up playing 2 spinners I don’t think Moin should bat higher than no.7 as he’s no great technician and always gives the bowlers a chance. Any runs he can make will not take long, so Curran and Rashid should be able to provide support long enough for him to get his eye in. Woakes is for me the better all round option as he’s a better bowler and a more reliable batsman. Broad is still the frustration with the bat. It’s been a while since he was hit, so you feel he should be psychologically adjusted by now, but no one seems to expect anything of him with the bat any more.

  10. John August 8, 2018 at 10:38 am - Reply

    First, I’m reluctant to wear Bayliss’s hat, although Ed’s no doubt elegant Panama might be a possibility.

    My starting point is ‘what do you want your batting order to do ?’ No. Wait. (Sorry) Hear me out.
    Playing against this Indian side, at Lord’s, one up in the series our first objective (and I don’t mean this negatively) is not to lose, but of course, we want to win. Based on Indian performances under Kohli, their current batting line up and our attack, we are unlikely to lose with a two innings aggregate of circa 550 so how do we achieve that? Even batting first on a Lord’s track, against this Indian attack, I simply can’t see our batting line up, however configured, getting 600+ so we can then bowl India out twice. We are therefore looking to pick a side which can score, say, 285+ twice. Given that we have a better chance of doing that against tiring bowlers, I am quite happy to see a batting order ‘bottom weighted’.

    Like various others here, in the absence of a number 3 (I have a long held believe, now seemingly morphing into a forlorn hope, that that could be Hameed), I would have picked 3 openers, probably with Cook dropping to 3. Root, for me always bats at 4, with, in this line up, YJB at 5, Pope 6 (I think it would be folly to play such an inexperienced batsman out of his regular position on his Test debut) and Buttler 7.

    One thing everyone seems to be assuming is that Rasheed will play. I would revert to Moeen under the specific requirements of this Test. Who knows. It being Lord’s Rasheed might refuse to play anyway !!!

    Given the selected squad, however, I think that the likelihood is that Pope will play at 4. Wherever he plays I wish him well – he looks to be an exciting prospect.

  11. Jackie Litherland August 8, 2018 at 11:16 am - Reply

    I don’t think Ed Smith, dictator-selector as he might be, will be selecting the order of players. That still belongs to coach and captain – surely?

    We have another pop(e) at a newbie batting in the side. Why not? There is the idea that selection is pretty random these days so might as well choose Surrey or Yorkshire or Hampshire and please the moguls. Unfortunately we’ll only know how bad or good the selection is in a few months time. Most good new players get a honeymoon. However if you are still there in a year’s time or even two years’ time then you have begun a Test career. The youth craze is beginning to look a bit thin. But at least there are always new young ones coming in to keep the ECB happy with their plans for fans with a mental age of ?Six? Even an 8 year old can follow a scoreboard. Meanwhile the Counties realise their best players are well ignored despite a scouting system. Why bother when Smith has his own mysterious antennae? At least it gives every fan their favourite pastime of selecting an England side extra spice. Looking back though all those favourites have bit the dust. Meaning perhaps that there is no mantra for picking a Test batsman or bowler. Each special player is highly individual but somehow recognisable. So I agree with James that Smith is just a fashion merchant and is all method and no insight. He might be lucky with his picks. Or not. He seems to be gambling – a kind of moneyball on youth rather than experience.

  12. Simon H August 8, 2018 at 11:32 am - Reply

    India badly need Rahane, as by reputation one of their better players abroad, to rediscover some form. He’s in a slump dating back nearly 2 years with just one century (against SL) in his last 17 Tests (plus just 3 fifties – and none at all in his last seven Tests). Of course last time India played a Test at Lord’s he made a brilliant, match-winning century.

    Has T20 ruined him? He seems to have put all of his focus on learning how to increase his SR.

  13. muffin August 8, 2018 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    It’s been announced that Pope will bat at 4.
    I’m concerned about Bairstow’s batting. Since he’s had the gloves, he’s only made a decent score in the first innings of a match – i.e. before he has kept. If he is being played as one of the primary batsmen, he should not be keeping. I don’t think that he is significantly better than Buttler any way, and there are lots of other options available (I did, not entirely seriously, suggest on a earlier thread that keepers could fill all of the top 7 batting positions!)

  14. Ian August 8, 2018 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    It was a 100% certain that Pope was simply going to slot in at the vacant 4 position. Bairstow will definitely remain at 5and keep the gloves. Only question is whether Butler goes to 6 with Ali or Woakes at 7 or vice versa.

  15. forester August 8, 2018 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    On a different topic, has anyone seen Matthew Engel in the Guardian having a good pop at the ECB? He thinks a Campaign for Real Cricket is needed – I think he’ll get huge support.

  16. dangermash August 8, 2018 at 10:04 pm - Reply

    What’s the point of a specialist batsman who only plays at #7? Replace Buttler with Burns, then everybody can play in the right position. Cook at 3, Root at 4, Pope at 5, Bairstow at 6, Curran at 7, Wpakes at 8,…

    • John August 9, 2018 at 6:58 am - Reply

      I’m not sure why you think that Cook at 3 and Pope at 5 is playing everyone in his right position. The whole point, if I understand Ed’s thinking correctly, is that Buttler is not a specialist batsman. He’s a big hitter who comes in after the specialist batsman with the brief to turn the game decisively in England’s favour.

      • Doug M August 10, 2018 at 11:58 am - Reply

        I think John that posh boy Ed actually said originally that Butler is playing as a specialist batsman, but if that’s right why would he play at 7? In fact where should he play?

      • AndyB August 10, 2018 at 3:31 pm - Reply

        So let me see if I have Smith’s thinking right. Buttler comes in no7. If the specialist batsmen do their job then he is not needed to make a decisive difference as they will already have put England in a strong position. If the specialist batsmen do not do their job then Ed is expecting an inferior bat to do a job that 6 specialist batsmen have been unable to do. Does Ed moonlight as a clown at kiddies parties?

  17. Comte August 10, 2018 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    I think some of the Sky boys are less than keen on Mr Ed. Perhaps it’s his lofty intellect.

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