The Investec Ashes 2013 June 24, 2013

Root preferred to Compton for Ashes warm-up


England have given the clearest indication yet that Joe Root, rather than Nick Compton, will open the batting with Alastair Cook during the Ashes. Root will move up the order for the warm-up match against Essex beginning on Sunday, with Compton omitted from the squad and Geoff Miller, the national selector, describing Root as "currently the best opening partner" for Cook.

Compton has paid the price for a disappointing series against New Zealand in May. He looked devoid of confidence in scoring 39 runs in four innings while, in the second Test at Headingley, Root and Jonny Bairstow batted with admirable freedom in posting a partnership of 124 for the fifth wicket.

Root has continued to impress in almost every scenario with which he has been confronted. He has shown a welcome adaptability in limited-overs and Test cricket and, while it might be considered something of a risk to promote him to the top of the order for the first time in an Ashes Test, he has played most of his county cricket as an opening batsman at Yorkshire. The England management have recognised his calm temperament and skill and see him as a big part of the team's future in all formats.

"We believe Joe Root is currently the best opening partner for Alastair Cook and he will open the batting against Essex," Miller said. "Joe has performed well for Yorkshire at the top of the order earlier this season and during his international career so far has proven to be very adaptable in all three formats and relished the challenge of international cricket."

The ECB have announced a 14-man squad to play Essex, including Graeme Swann, who suffered a calf problem during the ICC Champions Trophy, and Kevin Pietersen for what will be only his second first-class appearance since England's tour of New Zealand in March. Boyd Rankin, the former Ireland fast bowler, has also been called up ahead of Chris Tremlett, after being added to both of England's limited-overs squads in the last month.

Compton might consider himself unfortunate to miss out. It is only four Tests since he was celebrating back-to-back centuries in the first two Tests in New Zealand in March while he responded to the challenge 'go back to county cricket and score some runs' by making 166 in his first innings back in Championship cricket against a strong Durham attack. The next highest score in the innings was 42.

He remains available for Somerset's tourist game against Australia from Wednesday - his 30th birthday - but it is now highly unlikely that he will feature in the first Investec Ashes Test which starts on July 10. England will use the Essex game not just for match practice, but to discuss plans and merge as a team. Compton's omission is a clear indication that the selectors have decided to move on. While continuity of selection has been a feature of England's success in recent years, the England management can still be ruthless when they deem it necessary.

The emergence of Bairstow is just as relevant to Compton's demotion as Root's elevation. Bairstow has been on the fringes of the side for some time and has impressed in his limited opportunities. He scored 149 in the final Test against South Africa in 2012 (95 in the first innings and 54 in the second) as well the impressive innings of 64 against New Zealand in Leeds. While Compton is admired for his fortitude and determination, Bairstow is seen as having the greater potential and the wider range of strokes with which to accelerate and hurt opposition bowling attacks. Aged 23, he also has greater scope for the future.

"This match is a vital part of our preparations for the Investec Ashes after a period of limited overs cricket for a large number of the squad," Miller said. "We have a very exciting two months of Test cricket coming up and it is important that we start well at Chelmsford next week. Kevin Pietersen has had no complications following his recent return to cricket after a knee injury which is pleasing and Graeme Swann is recovering well from a calf injury."

An England spokesman confirmed that the match against Essex will be a first-class encounter and so feature just 11 players on each team. The spokesman also confirmed that there are no plans to boost the Essex side with reinforcements. Essex, who currently occupy a mid-table position in Division Two of the County Championship, were recently bowled out for just 20 by Lancashire.

England squad: Alastair Cook (capt), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, Graham Onions, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Boyd Rankin, Joe Root, Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2013, 11:10 GMT

    Surely they just wanted to see how Compton performs against the actual Australian attack.Obvious choice in my opinion. Put him against Essex or get some actual experience against the actual opposition. I know which one i would go for and to me it looks like England have done the same.

  • Tim on June 26, 2013, 10:35 GMT

    Totally agree with batting selection. Don't understand the agonies over dropping Compton after his centuries. They had no trouble dropping Bopara after he scored - 3 test centuries, was it? Root's a class above as anyone can see. So's Bairstow, frankly. I love Bell to bits but he needs to score an attacking test innings soon. He's just been doing backs-to-the-wall marathons. He's supposed to be our most gifted strokemaker, after KP, so let's see it!

  • Nirmal on June 26, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    is it to accomodate KP? Good Move though..

  • Jason on June 26, 2013, 8:01 GMT

    what I dont think people recognise is that England get the best of both worlds here, firstly Compton gets to strut his stuff against Australia, secondly England get to see Root opening with cook, and Bairstow has a chance to get runs and show his quality. As one of Root, Compton or Bairstow will be dropped for the first Test with KP's return.

    Worst case scenario, All three thrive/fail and the selectors have an even bigger headache. Though I suspect all three will be in the initial squad with a final decision made on the evening/morning of the first test.

  • Robert on June 26, 2013, 0:57 GMT

    Lots of interesting comments - here's my twopennorth. Bad luck Nick, you earned your chance with all those runs for Somerset but, despite those 2 centuries, you didn't cement your place. Joe Root is a natural opener and should be there for the next 12 years or so (records will be broken!). Bairstow to bat at 5 (we're grooming him to take the gloves from Matty Prior). I worry about Ian Bell - gives his wicket away too often with poorly chosen shots. Think Ravi has done enough with bat and ball in recent months to warrant a place. So my top order is - Cook, Root, Trott, K.P., Bairstow, Bopara, Prior. Jimmy, Swanny and Broad are nailed on as 3 of our bowlers and you have riches to pick on for the 4th member of the quartet - Onions, Finn, Tremlett, Bresnan, Meaker, etc. With Ravi's 'bits 'n' pieces' available as necessary. If ECB do want to add a Warwickshire bowler I'd be putting in Keith Barker or Rikki Clarke rather than Boyd Rankin!

  • Michael on June 25, 2013, 20:47 GMT

    I think the selectors deserve congratulating for sparing us the tedium of having to watch this guy bat when they already have Cook and Trott. Scoring rates would plummet,the crowds would be asleep in 10 minutes. There would be reports of viewers hanging themselves an hour and a quarter into an England innings. Thank you dear Mr Miller for sparing us. Certainly not a chip off his grandfathers block. More like Tavare's.

  • Dean on June 25, 2013, 19:31 GMT

    @Mikey 76, Cont. Nowadays Rashid's bowling isn't up to much anyway & probably wouldn't be any more effective at test level than someone like Moen Ali who has scored more runs this yr. As for Borthwick he hasn't scored anywhere near enough runs to be considered for the n06 berth in the test side.

  • stuart on June 25, 2013, 19:29 GMT

    Lets see how he does against a world class attack. Shame he will be playing the Aussies for a while but he might come up against some good bowlers against another team. God knows this Aussie attack are the greatest ever but someone has to do the impossible.

  • Dean on June 25, 2013, 19:23 GMT

    @Mikey76, I think we need to be very careful about going down the allrounder route. If you look at the great allrounders from the 70s/80s, Kapil,Imram,Beefy,Hadlee, all made their respective teams as a bowler the fact they were all more than handy with a bat was a bonus. More recently Kaliis makes the SA team as a batsman & Flintoff at his best made the Eng team as a bowler, although when he first appeared against SA in 98 he was no more than the latest in a long line of bits n pieces players that Eng had tried. It wasn't for another 3 or 4 yrs when his bowling really developed that he became an asset. At this stage of his career Stokes is not within the best 6 batsman in the country so I don't think you can pick coz he bowls a bit, having said that his bowling is improving so if he can 1 day make the side for his batting he may prove to be a real asset. As for Rashid he has been batting well this year but again I wouldn't say he's anywhere near the top 6 batsman in the country.

  • Dean on June 25, 2013, 19:01 GMT

    @Beertje, I think the Eng management had a good look at Meaker in Ind & probably decided he wasn't ready as he was replaced by Woakes for the tour to NZL. His FC stats are pretty ordinary this season as well, he's taken 20W @33.2, so I would suspect he's a fair way down the pecking order at the moment. I think Rankin is in because he's tall & is bowling pretty quick this year. With Tremlett Struggling to find his best form after a lengthy injury lay off I think there is a thought in the Eng camp that Rankin could possibly play the Tremlett role if needed.