England’s tour of India hasn’t got off to the smoothest of starts, but the batting line up does, at least, appear to be falling into place as key components find form at the right time.
There was a big question mark over Nick Compton as he collected a solitary run from his first two innings on the tour, but he has now recorded back to back fifties to cement his place in the side as new captain Alastair Cook’s new opening partner following the summer retirement of Andrew Strauss.
Patience appears to have been the key to Compton’s career to date, but England’s persistence with him ahead of Yorkshire’s Joe Root appears to be paying dividends.
Compton was top scorer in the County Championship in 2012 with 1494 runs at an almighty average of 99.60. This was in his third season as a Somerset player following a 2010 move from Middlesex and his improvement has been steady. In 2011 he scored 1098 runs at 55.70, following a trickier first season at Taunton in which he got 465 First Class runs.
Somerset have reaped what they have sown with Compton. His Middlesex career had stagnated. 51 First Class matches yielded 2834 runs at 34.14 at Lord’s. Hardly awe inspiring stuff. In three seasons with Somerset Compton has scored 2990 First Class runs at 65.00. The marked improvement is obvious in the stats.
The 21 year old Root’s time will come. It would surely be asking too much of the youngster to throw him into action on arguably the most demanding of tours. If he played and failed the long term consequences could be severe on his career. At 29, Compton can be thrown in. Nothing ventured, nothing gained…
Jonathan Trott will continue at number three, a position to which he has given England much stability where they were previously scrabbling around prior to his 2009 Oval debut in the Ashes decider. Kevin Pietersen’s return has put to bed any debate as to who would fill his shoes at number four.
Ian Bell will retain his number five spot for the first Test, before flying back to England for the birth of his first child. Thankfully for England both Eoin Morgan and Jonny Bairstow scored good runs in the second warm-up match, the latter hitting a century.
It will be interesting to see who replaces Bell. Morgan has spent time in India playing (or watching, rather) the IPL so will have spent more time on the Indian pitches than Bairstow. Bairstow, however, enjoyed a tremendous Test at Lord’s at the end of the English summer and would appear to be the man in possession.
Either one could, and perhaps should, take Bell’s spot for the rest of the tour. Bell has played five Tests in India and averages 20.00. His record in the subcontinent isn’t great.
From five Tests in Sri Lanka Bell averages 38.22 and from six Tests away to Pakistan he averages 30.33. His only period of sustained good form against one of the subcontinent’s big guns away from England was the 2005 tour to Pakistan where he scored 313 runs at 52.16.
I’m a huge fan of Ian Bell but his record in these conditions, twinned with poor form in 2012 (averaging 31.25) and added to the fact that he’s missing the second Test means he should probably miss out. That’s not me saying anyone who dares to put family before cricket should be dropped, he’s absolutely doing the right thing in travelling home. I just feel he’s out of form and it could be a great chance to take another look at Morgan or a further look at Bairstow…
At number six Samit Patel has really pressed his claims for inclusion in the Test XI. I’d be surprised if he’s not. He’s scored heavily (stop sniggering at the back) in the warm-ups and has also been in the wickets. He should keep Matt Prior at seven.
Into the tail and there are unresolved injuries and issues. Will Steven Finn be fit? Will Stuart Broad? Graeme Swann has been forced to return home, at least momentarily, as his daughter is ill. We wish him all the best for her speedy recovery. Stuart Meaker has been flown out and is part of a three man seam attack with Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions in the final warm-up. Monty Panesar has replaced Swann.
I’d expect to see Bresnan, Broad, Swann/Panesar and James Anderson line up for the first Test. This would mean Nick Compton will be the only debutant in the XI. He deserves it. He’s got a magnificent opportunity to play a key role in what will be a fascinating couple of years for England cricket.
By Miles Reucroft