Since the retirement of Andrew Strauss back in 2012 England have tried and failed fifteen times over fourteen different batsmen to replace him. This month with Sillypoint we look back at the failed fourteen.
Nick Compton- The unlucky one
Well someone always has to be the first which is perhaps the first reason as to why Nick Compton gets the tag of being unlucky. Andrew Strauss had retired from all forms of cricket at the end of the 2012 summer thus breaking up the steadfast six year opening partnership between him and Cook. After a solid county campaign that year the experienced campaigner Compton was selected to partner captain Cook out in India.
Some useful starts were set between the two but Compton failed to convert his scores into anything particularly meaningful. The glimpses he had shown and the fact England won out in India earned him a spot a few months later on the tour to New Zealand where he was one of only a few men in this list to score two centuries in the position. England though had their eye on someone else and rumours of Compton struggling to fit in around the dressing room meant two tests into the 2013 summer he was dropped. How England have perhaps regretted that decision to move Compton on too early.
Joe Root- The first chosen one
Indeed England had their eye on Joe Root who had made his debut in India batting at number six. By trade though for Yorkshire he was an opener and England saw him as a long term option to partner Cook. His five test matches officially in the position consisted of the 2013 Ashes series where at Lords it looked like the management had got it right. His 180 in the second innings beautifully set up an England victory and things were looking bright at the top of the order.
Throughout the rest of the series however Root contributed little else and was constantly found out lurking on the back foot. With his old position at number six becoming available due to Bairstow’s poor form the decision was made to cut their losses. Root batted at number six for the return series down under and never started a test again as an opener. The merry-go-round had only just begun mind you.
Michael Carberry- The Ashes whitewash one
For this choice England perhaps had gone back to plan A by going for an experienced county pro who was in good form. Things got off to an ok start with 40 in the first innings at Brisbane and 60 in Adelaide, but it quickly went downhill from there on in the series. England was destroyed by Mitchell Johnson who finished with 38 wickets and decimated the tourists batting line up.
Carberry personally may well have felt frustrated that throughout he was unable to convert good looking starts into big runs. He did however finish with England’s third highest batting average. The next test match England played wasn’t until six months later and a complete overhaul in management meant Carberry missed out on selection.
Sam Robson- The Australian one
With England left having to rebuild half their team after the disastrous winter’s Ashes series it was decided Sam Robson should partner Cook having made a string of centuries in county cricket. His duel heritage meant he was eligible to play for both England and Australia and his decision did revoke a response from David Warner who felt he was taking the easier option.
Robson was given the 2014 summer tests to prove himself and he was looking good having made his maiden hundred at Leeds and made a decent score a couple of weeks later against India. Much like his predecessors though it began to unravel as the Indian new ball pace attack got on top of him as he finished the summer with an average of 30.
Jonathan Trott- The comeback king one
17 months after Jonathan Trott had to leave the 2013/14 Ashes tour due to a stress related illness he was back in an England shirt for the tour of the Caribbean at the start of 2015. The only slight problem was that his old position at number three was taken by Gary Ballance who had made an impressive start to his test match career.
Therefore the only logical position that was available to Trott was being an opener. Things didn’t get off to a good start when on the first morning he edged Jerome Taylor to the slips which set the tone for the series. He did manage to score some run in the 2nd Test but by the end of the series Trott knew the writing was on the wall. In what is believed to be a very emotional and powerful speech Jonathan Trott announced his retirement in the Barbados dressing room.
Adam Lyth- The Whitby One
At the start of a huge summer for England Adam Lyth was given his chance to be England’s next opener and the 666th player to represent the country. Similar to the man who did the job the previous summer Lyth scored a well composed century in his second match at Headingley against New Zealand.
The Ashes series that came later that summer did not go to plan however mainly due to slight cavalier approach at the top of the order. The Yorkshiremen did however contribute by securing up England’s slip cordon that was under pressure going into the series. The following winter Lyth was dropped due to his poor form.
Alex Hales- The David Warner one
Throughout 2015 Alex Hales had been causing a bit of a splash in the one day game and suggestions were being made that he could be the next David Warner. His first series in the position was in South Africa where the first signs of his weakness around the fourth stump line were highlighted against a good quality attack.
Hales was however given the following summer and began it well with two scores in the 80s against Sri Lanka made in a fashion completely against his natural way. Things fell apart quickly though when Pakistan brought over a strong pace attack which showed the fragility in Hales technique outside his off stump. Since his dropping Hales’s career has been dogged by off the field issues and his decision to turn his back on red ball cricket.
Ben Duckett- The forgotten one
Probably the one most people miss off when compiling the list of openers England have tried since 2012, largely due to the fact he only played two tests away in Bangladesh. The pitches England played on were spinner’s dreams as the hosts notched up their first test victory against England. Duckett may feel slightly hard done to as he did notch up a composed 56 in the 2nd innings where the next best from Root down was 25. The selectors though had their eye on the next man.
Haseeb Hameed- The second chosen one
The young Lancastrian was perhaps given the unfortunate nickname of baby Boycott due his style of play and hunger to bat long periods of time. A tough baptiseism of fire in the form of a five test match series away in India, however he seemed to be well equipped to deal with the challenges of test match cricket. An 80 in the second innings of his debut almost set up a famous first test victory and England thought they had finally filled the void.
A hand injury in the third test brought a premature end to his winter and with England not playing their first test of that summer till July due to the Champions Trophy Hameed had to go back to Lancashire.
That didn’t go well at all as Hameed really struggled in the early season conditions and barely scored a run which resulted in him not featuring again for England. His form has never really returned in the intervening years and having being cut loose by Lancashire Haseeb Hameed has now gone to Nottinghamshire to try and salvage his career.
Keaton Jennings- The he can play spin one
On the back of a solid 2016 season for Durham Keaton Jennings was picked as England’s backup opener for the India series that winter and when Haseeb Hameed injured his hand the last two matches in Mumbai and Chennai were his.
Things got off to the perfect start as Jennings joined an allusive list of players to score a century in their first innings of test cricket. His natural ability to play spin was evident for all to see and he even backed it up with a 50 in Chennai when the rest of the team was crumbling.
It was back home that life was a little more complicated for the Durham man as a ferocious attack of Rabada, Morkel and Philander exposed his static technique outside the off stump which left many concerned and asking the question how he would fair in Australia that winter? The answer was of course he wouldn’t so Keaton Jennings joined the sorry list in the no pile.
Mark Stoneman- The he looked quite good one until he didn’t
Stoneman’s an interesting case as although he had a quiet start against the West Indies at the end of the 2017 summer he started to increasingly look like a test match player through the following Ashes series down under.
The likes of Starc and Cummings peppered the Surrey man and inflicted some nasty blows which Stoneman took with impeccable courage. He would regularly get England off to a flying start with a flurry of boundaries against the new ball that would make you sit up and take notice.
The title to Stoneman’s section not only refers to his overall test career as a fairly timid opening test at Lords in 2018 resulted in him being dropped but also his individual innings as well. Stoneman never made a century despite on a few occasions looking well set to make one and one test into the summer of 2018 he was replaced.
Keaton Jennings- The he can’t play pace one
A terrific start to the 2018 county season in which Jennings switched from Durham to Lancashire meant he was the outstanding candidate to come into the side at the top of the order. The same problems as before began to materialise though as in English conditions his technique just looked inadequate. His feet barely moved and the outside edge of his bat was caught with alarmingly regularity by a high class Indian attack.
Jennings did manage to survive through to the winter however, in part due to the retirement of Alastair Cook which meant management were reluctant to pick two new openers at once. Another piece of fortune for Jennings was that the first tour of the winter was too Sri Lanka and conditions that he had already excelled in.
In Galle the left handed opener made a well composed 140 as he played the Sri Lankan spinners expertly, however as the three match series went on the same old concerns resurfaced as Jennings repeatedly got out to Sri Lanka’s only fast bowler in the side. The post Christmas tour to the West Indies turned out to be a bridge too far and his time in an England shirt was up.
Joe Denly- The maybe he should bat at three one
That West Indies tour at the start of 2019 saw Joe Denly make his test debut at the age of 34 originally at number three. When Jennings was dropped after the first test Denly stepped up to take the reins for the final two with some success. Moving forward it was decided that Denly is probably a better number three then opener and that is where he currently still is, just.
Jason Roy- The well we’ve tried everyone else one
After four years of waiting and wondering when the man who was smashing the white ball all over the place was going to get a chance the answer finally came after England’s World Cup triumph. Partly due to the fact that we were out of all other options and partly due to Roy’s incredibly impressive World Cup campaign.
The following Ashes however didn’t go well as his off stump spent more time horizontal then it did vertical and by the fifth test he was dropped. Although at times it was undignified and difficult to watch and an example of a man clearly not having played enough red ball cricket I did feel something is there with Roy. Maybe if he plays some more Championship cricket a true test player may emerge at number six for England, but for now he is the latest opener to be scrapped by England.
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