Part 3 of this series covers who bats in the coveted middle order positions 4,5 and 6 for the upcoming series.
The number 3 slot provided plenty of controversy; but do Josh Slater, Duke and Kookabura and All things cricket agree?
All things cricket
Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope
The successful middle order of the last 2 series should be maintained. Whilst I do not think Root should be captain; he is Englands best batsmen. Ben Stokes is Englands best player and Ollie Pope is currently on a meteroic rise of being Englands best talent.
Exciting times this middle order. Picks itself; into the next debate!
Duke and Kookabura
Joe Denly, Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope
With a personal breakthrough double hundred in NZ and a leadership triumph swatting away a poor SA over the winter, Root enters the summer in good spirits. Nailed on at #4, he has to face two good attacks but should be looking at four hundred runs plus over the two series. Given his likely absence for a Test or two, who would I select at #4? Given my top three is Burns, Sibley and Crawley I need some extra solidity and ballast at #4 so I am calling on Joe Denly. The Kent man hasn't let anyone down since his surprise recall, technically correct, stout in defence and patient he has blunted attacks and allowed the playmakers to do their thing. A relatively inexperienced top three could mean early wickets and Denly is my choice to stem the tide.
Ben Stokes is in concrete #5 and will lead the side in Root' absence. Vice-captain, slip catcher and general all-round inspiration there was no other choice. If he has a larger than normal bowling workload, I would consider moving having him bat #6 otherwise Pope will bat #6 as he has shown finesse and style aplenty in his brief career to date. Runs over the winter had the purists cooing, I rate him very highly and believe he could be the mainstay of our batting this decade if he continues to work hard. So, Root (Denly to deputise), Stokes and Pope is my line up for the middle order and I expect runs to flow.
Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope
Middle Order Stability. That is what fans of the England Test team have been craving. The fluctuating fortunes of England’s middle-order have seen stunning victories and crushing defeats for the last 5 years. After an excellent tour of South Africa, I believe England have found a combination that can be successful for years to come.
Captain Joe Root is a non-negotiable selection at number four. After being coerced by previous head coach Trevor Bayliss to return to three during the Ashes, Root is finally back in his best position. It is simply where he is most comfortable batting. This is essential in getting the maximum possible output from who is still England’s best batsman. Root can solidify and accelerate an innings masterfully from four, a contrast to last summer when he appeared frantic and hesitant in his stroke play. The coming years could be Root’s best, and I cannot wait to see them.
Ben Stokes is reaching his prime as an England cricketer. He is the ultimate team man, selflessly attacking the bowling when the match requires or defending for his life in tough situations. In general, his bowling workload has decreased in recent years, being used more as an impact bowler. This has allowed Stokes to realise his potential of being a well-rounded and complete top-order batsman, and this has shown in a prolific last 12 months.
The number six position must be occupied by Ollie Pope. The young Surrey batsman appears to be the most assured addition to England’s batting line-up for years. Pope is another modern player who can move through the gears rapidly, shifting from defence to attack in the blink of an eye. This was most pertinently on display in his innings at Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Calls to move him higher in the order must be resisted, as it may hinder his burgeoning talent. After missing the majority of the 2019 season through injury, Pope will be desperate to make up for the lost time and put the West Indies to the sword.
In a surprise to no-one; the middle order trio is preserved. Supremely talented and skilled; this is where the runs will be made. We all look forward to these 3 battling it out against the West Indian attack
Next up; who keeps: I suspect a return of division amongst the ranks.
See our selection for the openers HERE
See our selection for #3 HERE