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With change in the air for England's batting line up, ESPNcricinfo runs the rule over the men waiting in the wings
March 30, 2012
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In the wake of England's fourth consecutive Test defeat, Andrew Strauss refused to be drawn on the need for changes to the top order. Jonathan Trott scored England's first Test hundred of the year, a superbly constructed 112 to show what is possible, but among the other batsmen poor shot selection again proved costly.
Strauss, whose own survival is now openly under question, and team director Andy Flower, have put a huge emphasis on loyalty during their time working together since 2009. That was easy when England had been winning consistently. Alastair Cook had a lean summer in 2010, Paul Collingwood was carried in the closing stages of his career and Strauss has not scored a hundred since Brisbane 16 months ago. But until now they have been the exception rather than the rule.
England have one more Test remaining in their overseas season and then resume against West Indies on May 17. Wholesale changes will not happen, that is not the way of this England set-up, but with a tour to India next November the current batting problems need to be addressed. If another space becomes vacant in the top order what have the selectors got to choose from?
Ravi Bopara - Age 26, first-class average 41.66)
The other batting option in this squad, Bopara must be wondering what he has to do to earn a chance. Until picking up a side strain during the second warm-up match he was going to return to the side at No. 6. Now he has watched Samit Patel jump ahead of him. In first-class cricket his average is solid and he hasn't had the opportunity to show whether he has improved in the longer format since being found out by Australia in 2009. If he doesn't get that chance next summer he may never.
James Taylor - 22, 49.82
Consistently tagged as the next-big-thing, Taylor is firmly on the selectors' radar but is not pre-ordained to have a successful Test career as some suggest. He scored one half century in 10 one-day games in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka earlier this year - the tours didn't include any first-class cricket - and he faces an important season having made the move from Leicestershire to Nottinghamshire. Expectations are high but playing home matches at Trent Bridge won't make life easy. But that is a good thing. Succeed early in 2012 and that path to Test cricket becomes ever wider.
Jonny Bairstow - 22, 45.14
Bairstow has already shown he's a quick learner. In the Twenty20 series against Pakistan he became bogged down in the first match as England failed to complete a run chase but in the second game hit a match-winning unbeaten 60 which showed clear thinking, clean striking and a calm head. He struggled in India during October's one-day series and his talent is still raw but already his first-class career includes a double century.
Ben Stokes - 20, 43.64
Hasn't been seen in representative colours since the end of the English season due to a badly broken finger that stopped him from bowling. He then needed further extensive treatment. The injury hampered him during his debut series against India and, like many young England batsmen, he was befuddled by spin but there is no doubting he is one of the most exciting cricketers on the domestic circuit. England also want balance in the team and Stokes, now fit to bowl again, could be just the ticket.
Jos Buttler - 21, 32.08
He is a freakishly skilful batsman, something that has so far been best demonstrated in one-day cricket. The T20 series against Pakistan was a struggle for him and the much-vaunted scoop shot let him down. But his hand-eye coordination, when on form, is something to behold and few young English batsmen have shown his flair. Too soon for Test cricket at the moment but a good first-class season for Somerset could hasten his arrival.
Michael Carberry - 31, 44.45
Carberry is not one of the young brigade but if England wanted an experienced domestic player who has done the hard yards he should be high on the list. If it had not been for a career-threatening illness suffered in late 2010 he may have added to his one Test cap earned against Bangladesh. When he returned midway through last summer he averaged 56, including a triple hundred, and is back to full health.
Joe Root - 21, 35.03
Compared in style to Michael Vaughan, Root is tipped to become a Test cricketer in the near future. That may be a little optimistic, but he is certainly in that clutch of young batsman vying for attention. Reports from those who have watched him suggest he plays with hard hands that could cause trouble against the spinners. A winter with the Lions in the subcontinent enabled him to work in that aspect of his game.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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