Head coach Trevor Bayliss has hinted that the England batting line-up is unlikely to change much for the series against Pakistan in May, despite few of the issues being resolved over the last five months, but he called on domestic players to show they are better than those currently in the team.
Bayliss conceded that England ended their 2017-18 Test campaign with largely the same questions as they began with following five defeats and two draws having been foiled by New Zealand’s lower-order on the final day in Christchurch.
Over the seven Tests against Australia and New Zealand, Dawid Malan was the one batsman to enhance his reputation. Mark Stoneman and James Vince showed moments of encouragement but the pair finished averaging 30.23 and 30.54 respectively across all the Tests. Vince missed the Auckland Test when the line-up was reshuffled due to Ben Stokes being unable to bowl and returned with 76 in the second innings in Christchurch while Stoneman scored half-centuries in each Test.
“I think what they’ve all shown over this winter is that they are good players and they’ve scored some runs against quality opposition bowlers,” Bayliss said. “But what we need from them is to be doing it more often. They’re averaging high 20s, we need them to get that up and hopefully put another 20 on that.
“Probably the same questions are still there but Malan for example played pretty well against the pace in Australia and the other two guys at different times stood up. Vince made a couple of good scores. Stoneman under a fair bit of pressure and a barrage of short-pitched bowling handled himself reasonably well but again to be an international batter we need to be doing better than that.
“And the other side of that is who do we replace them with? We need guys and I guess this is a call-out to the guys in county cricket, the first five or six matches of the county season are very important. We’ve got Liam Livingstone here and the other one I’ll add in who’s impressed in the nets is Ben Foakes. He’s batting very well also. So there’s a couple of guys in this squad who can hopefully score runs and put a bit of pressure on and make the selectors job difficult which is what we all want.”
The batting was not helped by Alastair Cook‘s lean time, other than his double-century in Melbourne, which was compounded by a miserable series in New Zealand where he made 23 runs in four innings. Cook has reiterated to Bayliss that he has the desire to continue to add to his 154-cap career and after a couple of weeks off he will look to recuperate in the County Championship for Essex.
“It’s dangerous to write off someone with 12,000 Test runs. He’s desperately disappointed he hasn’t contributed more but speaking to him in the sheds, he’s still got a hunger for the game and he’s still wants to do well and thinks he’s got a role to play,” Bayliss said. “Going forward I think having someone with that experience we will need, so hopefully it’s not too long before he gets back into the groove.”
Then there is the captain. Root is England’s best batsman but can’t break his run of unconverted half-centuries, which now stands at nine, with two more in New Zealand added to the five in Australia (although retiring ill in Sydney can’t be held against him). Having come off a distinct second best to Steven Smith in the Ashes it was a slightly closer tussle with Kane Williamson as the New Zealand captain followed his Auckland century with a lean Test in Christchurch. Coming up for Root later this year is the head-to-head with Virat Kohli.
Bayliss remains largely phlegmatic about Root’s conversion rate and would like to see the rest of the batting order take some pressure off the captain. There were just four centuries scored across the seven Tests in Australia and New Zealand, two by Jonny Bairstow and one apiece for Cook and Malan.
“I’m sure he would have liked a few more runs himself but there’s a fair bit of pressure on him to be the one who scores the runs and we need a few more runs from some of the other guys,” Bayliss said. “I think that would take a little bit of the pressure off Joe. But he’s a guy who sets himself very high standards so I’m sure he’d be a little bit disappointed he hasn’t turned some of the starts into big hundreds.”