Trevor Bayliss has admitted England are no closer to solving their top-order batting issues despite completing a 3-1 victory over South Africa in the Investec Test series.
England climb to No. 3 in the Test rankings as a result of the win and have now beaten South Africa - the No. 2-rated side - home and away within the last couple of years. But Bayliss, the England coach, accepts their search for an opening partner for Alastair Cook goes on and insisted they would not use the result to "paper over cracks".
While there are still question marks on three positions in the top five - Dawid Malan averaged just 8.75 from his first two Tests and Tom Westley a more promising 30.50 - most of the focus is likely to fall upon Keaton Jennings ahead of Friday's selection meeting which will pick the side for the first Test against West Indies.
Jennings, who opened with Cook in all four Tests against South Africa, finished with a series average of just 15.87 and was unable to take advantage of being dropped in both innings of the final game at Old Trafford. It leaves him with a Test average of 24.50 after six Tests (although statisticians have worked out that figure would drop to 7.16 had each of the five dropped chances he has benefited from in his career been taken). Most notably, he made a century on Test debut against India having been dropped before he scored a run.
Although Bayliss was sympathetic to the challenges facing a top-order batsmen in this series, he conceded Jennings had not scored the runs he would have wanted. "Keaton would be disappointed with the way he went at the top of the order," Bayliss said. "He batted on some very tough wickets for an opening batter and against a top-quality bowling attack
"Are we any closer to solving those problems at the top of the order? To be honest, no. We're not papering over the cracks. We know there are some spots which haven't been cemented. We're still looking for those guys to prove their worth at this level. We've still got two or three positions we haven't nailed down yet. They know they have some things to work on."
While Bayliss offered no guarantees to Jennings over selection for the West Indies series, he did hint that he had a good chance of making the Ashes tour party.
"He's still an option to go to Australia," Bayliss said. "I'd be surprised if we don't take more than a couple of openers. He's working hard in the nets and that's as much as you can do. If he works hard enough and backs his ability then there's no reason he can't make a go of it."