<
>

'Tough decisions' to be made on top order

Trevor Bayliss has challenged batsmen in county cricket to seize their opportunity over the last few weeks of the domestic season and demand selection for England's touring teams.

Bayliss, accepting that England's top-order batting has been a recurring weakness in recent times, hinted that changes were likely after a summer in which James Vince played all seven Tests without recording a half-century and a series against Pakistan in which Alex Hales averaged just 18.12. Gary Ballance, too, may require a strong finish to the season to ensure himself of a spot in the Test squad.

"Hales and Vince have definitely had a decent run at it.," Bayliss said. "We're still looking for consistent contributions from some of the middle order. We're due to meet in about the second week of September to select the Test and ODI squads for those winter series and there will be some tough decisions to be made.

"There's a month to go in the county season and there's a challenge out there for some of those other guys to put their hand up and keep scoring runs. There doesn't seem to be anyone crying out to be selected above anyone else. There's a number of guys we've seen score some runs earlier this season under a bit of scrutiny when their names are mentioned about the possibility of getting into the team. Some of them have dropped off."

But while Bayliss offered an incentive to county batsman, he also suggested that the gap between domestic and international cricket had grown to such an extent that performances in the County Championship might not be an especially accurate gauge of a player's likely success at the higher level.

With that in mind, he confirmed that he has considered promoting the likes of Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali, who have scored relatively heavily in the lower-middle order, to higher positions in the batting line-up.

"The two or three guys we've got in the team have been very good players at county level over the last two or three years," Bayliss said. "But they have found it tough to jump up to this level. They have shown bits and pieces but I think it just proves that the jump between first-class cricket and Test cricket is a big one.

"Moving Stokes, Moeen and Bairstow up the order is one of the things I've been thinking of and I'm sure the other selectors have thought along those lines as well.

"We did give Moeen a go in the UAE a lot higher than the middle order and it didn't quite work. But that's the issue: they score so many runs at five, six and seven, do you risk them not scoring those if you put them a bit higher? The way we've been going, putting them a bit higher is definitely an option. It certainly worked with Joe Root going up to three. That's high on the agenda, I would have thought."

One thing that won't be held against Hales in selection meetings was his outburst at the third umpire over his first-innings dismissal at The Oval. Hales and Stuart Broad were fined by the ICC for questioning the decision and Bayliss said both players had been spoken to.

"It was silly, really. I don't really understand being on Twitter, but going into the third umpire's room, that was just wrong," Bayliss said. "Whether the decision is right or wrong, it's something that shouldn't be happening, especially from Halesy who wants to be an umpire in years to come. But it won't count against him in selection. It will get down to the number of runs and whether he deserves to be in the team."

Bayliss was also frustrated by England's fielding. Fifteen catches went down during the series against Pakistan, with the coach crediting a lack of concentration as the primary reason.

"We can be very, very good and we can be poor as well both with our batting and our fielding. We're inconsistent," he said.

"A lot of that has something to do with concentration. Some of the catches we dropped in this game were fairly simple and that can only be concentration. It's not a technique thing. Concentration, especially when slip catching is involved, is a big thing. I think there are parallels between concentration with our catching and inconsistency with our play. Maybe concentration is something that we've got to make sure we get right."

Bayliss was encouraged by the performance of one man in the field, though. He praised Bairstow for making progress with his keeping and all but guaranteed that he would retain the gloves in India and Bangladesh.

"He dropped a few early against Sri Lanka, but during this series I thought he's kept very well," Bayliss said. "He's been working on some technical issues. If he has confidence with his batting, he is doing the other pretty well. At the moment, his batting is top-class. He still has work to do with the keeping but I think he has made some strides."