England’s Test Openers Have Been Dismal And What’s The Solution?

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England’s biggest issue in Test cricket at the moment is their openers. Runs haven’t flowed from the bat as they would have liked. The average is poor.
And, at home, they haven’t done decent business to stake a claim of any sort. Whether it is the veteran Alastair Cook or the unsure Keaton Jennings, the duo has been below average against India in the ongoing 5-match Test series.
Time and again the solidity required at the top in Tests has been missing. That has robbed England of laying the groundwork for big scores required to keep one alive in the format. One can claim that this is also the number one reason for their dismal performance in recent times.
How is England planning to end this crisis? Is there a solution? If yes, then what?
These are the 3 major questions that will be bothering the management and the selectors at the moment. England openers are badly out of form and in the ongoing Test series against India, the issues have accentuated. Both Jennings and Cook failed at Southampton as well.
Here is how the situation for England looks at the moment.

Problems in current series aplenty

England openers weren’t able to crack the code against India in the first three Tests. On Thursday, as well, duck by Keaton Jennings saw the poor run of partnerships continue. Jennings was dismissed for a 4-ball nought and was the first player to depart.
Across 7 innings so far, the pair of Alastair Cook and Jennings have only added 144 runs. Their best was 54 in the 3rd Test at Nottingham. The average of 20.57 tells the story. Both players haven’t crossed the three-figure mark in this series across six innings so far.
When your openers itself aren’t getting any runs, that puts pressure on the middle order. And England has been exposed consistently. At this moment the management looks unsure on how to pan this opening dilemma out.

Jennings has failed to pay dividends

Keaton Jennings
Keaton Jennings has failed to deliver in the series (Image: Hindustan Times)

The scores of Jennings in the ongoing Test series read- 42, 8, 11, DNB, 20, 13 and 0. 94 runs across six innings, at the international level, in Test cricket is purely unacceptable. The bigger issue is that England are playing at home and yet Jennings is struggling.
He replaced Mark Stoneman, who was dropped post the first Test against Pakistan. But since then he hasn’t managed to stick his bat out at home and has fared poorly. Jennings is likely to be dropped for the fifth and final Test and he will see this as an opportunity lost.
England plays Australia at home in the 2019 Ashes and this was a solid chance for the southpaw to show his mettle. But lack of runs suggests he isn’t quite ready for international cricket at the moment.

Cook hasn’t come good either

Alastair Cook
Cook has been very poor this series (Image: BBC)

Keaton’s partner Cook is also going through a rough patch. Barring a 244* against Australia in 2017-18 Ashes, Cook has been a shadow of himself. He has managed 97 runs across 6 innings against India including 17-run knock in the fourth Test.
The veteran struggled against New Zealand and Australia as well. Against Pakistan in May, he got starts but failed to convert them. Cook has closely gone from bad to worse and there is no hiding at the moment. He is lucky to hold on to his place with the openers around him being chopped and changed consistently.
How long will Cook keep his place without scoring? Also, England does not have a tested entity that could come in and take over from the veteran southpaw. The selectors need to be scouting in County cricket with a wise mind and need answers sooner than later.

Stoneman has had a difficult time

Mark Stoneman was replaced by Keaton Jennings after he failed to deliver (Image: The Australian)

England doesn’t have many options to fall upon and the only alternative, Stoneman is also struggling with the bat. He managed two half-centuries in the Ashes and then had a decent show against New Zealand. But failure at Lord’s against Pakistan led to ECB dropping him.
Perhaps the chance for him was to make it count in County cricket, but his outings for Surrey haven’t gone according to plans since then. Stoneman has played a bit part show so far and doesn’t quite give England the belief that he is the man for the job.
England will need to think beyond Stoneman.

England haven’t batted well

In the last 63 innings over a period of three years, the English Test side have lost 4 wickets for 100 runs or lesser in 32 innings. This tells the sorry state of affairs. The biggest issue for England is that their top order hasn’t managed to score the bulk of runs on a consistent basis.
They have been overcome by opposition even at home. And the major reason behind all this is the parched nature of their openers in getting runs from the willow. Over time it’s the lack of substantial partnerships that haven’t given the side the steel to build their innings from.

England Openers in the Series
Innings Runs Highest Average
Cook 6 97 29 16.16
Jennings 6 94 42 15.66

If you look at Jennings and Cook’s average, it’s way below even 20. This is horrible from England if they want to stake a claim in this format.

What’s the solution?

England needs to think smartly and find someone in the side to come atop and deliver. Jonny Bairstow can be a sound option, given that he opens the batting for the side in ODIs. Bairstow is one of the rare English players in form recently and it’s vital that they think out of the box.
Also, there is Alex Hales. He can be called into the squad and needs to be back. His aggressive nature and eye for runs perhaps could ease England’s issues at the moment. Either of the duo could replace Jennings.

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