England in South Africa 2015-16 January 27, 2016

Hales and Compton could swap places - Bayliss


Trevor Bayliss, the England coach, has sought to reassure his top-order batsmen that their modest displays in the victory over South Africa will not necessarily lead to their exclusion from the Test side that takes on Sri Lanka in England in May.

But Bayliss has conceded that, with batsmen unable to cement their positions in the team, "there are possibilities" for players in domestic cricket who start the County Championship season well.

Alex Hales and Nick Compton both contributed just one half-century each during the four-Test series against South Africa. But Bayliss saw enough in each of them to retain faith that they could prove valuable players for England, though possibly in different batting positions.

Certainly he retains faith in the natural talent of Hales - a key member of the limited-overs squads - and feels that Compton will find greater consistency once he relaxes in the England environment. And while Hales looked vulnerable outside off stump, Bayliss felt some technical work - and perhaps a move down the order - could help him flourish in Test cricket.

"Hales is one of the guys who will be disappointed with how he's gone in this series," Bayliss said. "I thought the first couple of games, even though he didn't score a lot of runs in Durban, he looked quite comfortable at the crease and like he belonged.

"He's one of those guys who has shown what he can do at this level. So it's about knocking off a few of those rough edges. Whether it is as an opener or somewhere else in the order, he is certainly a guy with a lot of talent.

"Swapping Compton and Hales is one of those possibilities. Compton has done the job before and I think Hales has batted at No.3 before. That is certainly an option and has been spoken about in the past."

Bayliss admitted there had "been glimpses" of the intensity that that did not always endear Compton to all his colleagues, but suggested he looked "very solid" at times early in the series. And while Compton - perhaps scarred by his previous experiences in the England environment - has seemed somewhat unnerved by talk around his relatively sedate pace of play, Bayliss suggested he should not feel any pressure to change his natural game.

"Early in the series, I thought he looked very solid," Bayliss said. "Yes, he played a few more shots than I thought he would. Whether that's any different to what he has done in the past, I'm not sure.

"Hopefully, he's not confused with what his role in the team is. He and Alastair Cook are very much blokes the rest of the order can bat around. So if he approaches it his natural way and scores 80, 90 or 100 or more, the rest of the attacking players can bat around him.

"I think there were a few glimpses of that intensity. But a few of the coaching staff and people I've been talking to were saying that change in him since the first time he played for England was very noticeable. So hopefully he is relaxing as he gets a little older to give himself the best opportunity to succeed. He is trying to do whatever he can and certainly some of the signs were pretty good."

With neither man - or James Taylor, who also made a single fifty in the series - having made an irrepressible case for their continued selection, though, Bayliss said he would be watching the early weeks of the county season with interest. Given England's almost relentless schedule, and the fact that he was appointed mid-way through last year, Bayliss has seen very little of the talent available in the county game, but did take the opportunity to watch England Lions team training a couple of times while he was in the UAE.

"The players we have in South Africa are the best players we have at home," he said. "But I think it is also a sign to everyone else in county cricket that, if I come out and score runs early in the season, there are possibilities there.

"So when I watch county cricket, it will be a little bit with a view towards current selection and a little bit about looking towards the future. From my point of view, it is not necessarily about technique and the number of runs scored. It is the style of player or person. It's about guys that have got a bit about them, guys who are a little bit tougher.

"They always seem to be the guys that can make it at the top level. You don't necessarily have to have the best technique to score runs or take wickets. It's how you use the technique that you've got and being hard enough and strong enough and smart enough to be able to use that in the right context.

"I'll certainly be making an effort to watch some cricket and start to understand a bit more about the English game."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Clifford on February 1, 2016, 14:39 GMT

    ENG need to give these players a chance to succeed, the silly gambit of opening with Moeen vs PAK when it was clear he'd move back down the order vs SA just messed up Hales and the chirping about Compton's scoring pace is silly; ENG already did him wrong when they dropped him the first time now they need to give him a proper run. I'm sure there are players in CC/ Lions who could claim the spot but constantly chopping and changing isn't going to work.

  • Sayak on February 1, 2016, 8:07 GMT

    The best batsman plays at three in Test Cricket. Period! When we look into the last two decades, except Sachin, all the bests of the other teams played at three be it Ponting or Lara. Following the same logic, Compton should be promoted to open while Root should come to bat at three. Hales is a SF specialist and would never be very successful at Test Cricket. England could have used him at no. 6 / 7 in a similar role of Gilly , but they alredy have enough fire power in Stokes and Jonny B there. Taylor should come at number 4 , with Ballance / Bell at 5.

  • Paul on January 30, 2016, 11:58 GMT

    JOHN WINWOOD ON JANUARY 30, 2016, 10:25 GMT CC averages don't always count for much. Trescothick and Vaughan were picked when averaging in the 30s and they did ok. Ramps and Hick averaged in the 50s but couldn't hack it, albeit in a different era. Whilst all of us analyse techniques, to see whether or not they'll work at Test level, KP, Smith, Trescothick, Gower all had serious flaws in their techniques but overcame them for long and successful careers.

  • John on January 30, 2016, 10:33 GMT

    I thought the idea of bringing Compton back to begin with was based on the Cook/Compton partnership being the most successful in recent times. I thought the idea was for them to blunt the new ball attack and make it easier for the freer scorers later on. I have said this a load of times before , we pick our SF/aggressive batsmen for tests and they overcompensate and basically show neither the counter attacking threat to put the opposition on the back foot or the nous to ride dodgy patches. Not sure if it's the coaching staff or the players themselves. Compton seemed to have pressure on him to up the tempo which is wrong and Hales tried to play below his natural tempo which is again wrong. Why can't Compo be encouraged to play at the tempo he prefers and the same with Hales?

  •   John Winwood on January 30, 2016, 10:25 GMT

    If we keep picking openers who can't average more than mid 30's in CC then we will always question them... either find a good 19 20 yr old opener and stick with him or pick the couple of 40 + averages in CC...

  • Jeff on January 29, 2016, 15:17 GMT

    Cook Lyth/Robson Ballance Root Taylor Stokes Bairstow then the bowlers. Hales should concentrate on limited overs while the old veteran Compton is too old to try and adjust his game. Get Lyth and Robson back in the lions squad, work with them, fix their problems, and whichever one of them does best give an extended run in the Test team, with the other given a long run, and the captaincy, of the Lions team so we have solid backup.

  • Michael on January 29, 2016, 11:13 GMT

    Seen a few calls for Vince, who I think averaged under 30 in the County Championship last year. Lovely short form player and I think he has the potential, but let him work on his first class game instead of throwing him in to Test cricket.

  • Paul on January 29, 2016, 9:51 GMT

    We shouldn't try putting square pegs into round holes. If someone doesn't open in FC cricket for their county, what on earth makes someone think they will succeed at Test level? And why do people think Taylor might be any good at three? His technique is suspect anyway, with lots of movement, and he never bats that high for Notts. Plenty of far better batsmen couldn't or wouldn't bat three. It's a specialist position.

  • R on January 29, 2016, 8:42 GMT

    ''and start to understand a bit more about the English game." Ooooh, that's a bit worrying from the Eng coach 8 months into his post…. Shouldn't Trev have understood 'a bit more about the English game' before he was interviewed, let alone handed the job? Doesn't say much about the selection process or the other candidates… Or the Eng coaches' ability to sort out the current Eng batting issues

  • Jason on January 29, 2016, 7:40 GMT

    @SirViv1973, one other point to consider is that Roy isn't an Opener for surrey from memory he comes in at 4/5 in the majority of FC games, and only opens in the Limited over format.

    I think England probably need to persist with Compton opening with Cook, and promote either Root or Taylor to 3, with 5 going to either Ballance, Hales, Roy or someone else.

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