Over the past few years, England’s all-rounders have saved their skins. They have been the difference between making 200 runs and making over 300 runs but are England too reliant on their all-rounders? And if they are, what does this say about the quality of out-and-out batsmen in England at the moment? Do we need a radical overhaul of Test cricket?
Moeen Ali the difference
Take the example of Moeen Ali in the fourth Test against South Africa last week. His 75 not out helped England reach a total of 243. Without these runs, England would have made less than 200 and whilst it would not have made a difference to the eventual result, a lower total would have meant England were less confident going into their fourth innings and may have struggled to break down a resilient South Africa attack as easily as they did.
Many fans will remember Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow sharing a 399 run partnership in South Africa back in January 2016 to win the Test. Without these runs, there is no doubt that England would not have won the Test and therefore the series.
The list of leading English run scorers since the start of 2016 features three all-rounders in the top five in the shape of Jonny Bairstow (2), Moeen Ali (4) and Ben Stokes (5). The only other players to feature in the top five are Alastair Cook and Joe Root, England’s most consistent batsmen. This suggests that there is an overreliance on their several batsmen who have been tried at numbers two, three and five in the English team.
Unlike in the ODI team, they are just unable to find anyone that can score enough runs to be able to stick around with the team for more than seven matches. England have struggled to replace the likes of Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell who were stalwarts in the national team for a generation.
A radical overhaul?
This is undoubtedly a problem and possibly suggests that there needs to be a radical overhaul of Test cricket in England similar to the way there was for the ODI team not so long ago. That overhaul seemed to work as England are now difficult to beat and often score of over 300 batting first and are well known for being able to chase down any total batting posed to them batting second.
Maybe that is what is needed at the moment, a radical overhaul of the county circuit in England and how players are being produced in order to revamp the Test squad and make it more competitive on an international level. With the gaps in the team at the moment, it puts a lot of pressure on the senior players to perform. If two or three of those senior players have a bad outing, England often struggle to compete.
However, there are those that argue England just haven’t found the right players for the positions yet. That maybe they need to keep blooding players until they find somebody that is capable of making the step up from county cricket. There are still arguments to be made over Haseeb Hameed who hasn’t been given a proper chance yet or Mark Stoneman who will be making his debut in the Day-Night Test match at Edgbaston on Thursday. Don’t forget the likes of Tom Westley who has yet to show what he is capable of and Gary Ballance who still hasn’t been properly afforded a chance at number five. Lastly, there is Alex Hales who had a disastrous start as an opening batsman; but since moving down the order at his county side, Notts, has impressed.
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