Now that England are back to being awesome at Test match cricket, having smited India at the back end of last year, discussion has turned to the future. Specifically, how can this side continue to grow and evolve? After wasting our entire teenage life playing Pokémon across various Nintendo handhelds, we’re in a position to answer this: in order to evolve a Pokemon needs to win loads of fights, mainly by using a Snorlax to headbutt stuff until it dies.
While there’s a little debate around the makeup of England’s bowling attack – Anderson, Finn and Swann are all nailed on to start the first Test, while Broad and Onions compete for the last remaining spot – the main discussion is around the batting order, with particular emphasis on two men: Nick Compton and Joe Root.
There’s no doubt that Root has made a fabulous start to his international career. He currently averages 93 in Test cricket (albeit from just the one Test), 81.50 in ODI cricket (from eight matches) and, er, took three very nice catches and a wicket in his two T20 matches. This has led to him being proclaimed the future of English cricket, with 15 years of opening the batting and 20,000 Test runs now just a formality. Hence the calls for him to ascend to his rightful place at the top of the order, from where he can cart New Zealand’s workmanlike pace attack to all parts.
Nick Compton’s international career has had a rather more sedate start. Following the four games in India his average sits at 34.66, a far from exceptional number, but a promising start given the conditions and opposition. It certainly wasn’t the poor start that some are now claiming as they attempt to rewrite history to suit their Stalin-esque needs.
One of England’s foundations for their victory in India was their opening partnership. Compton and Alastair Cook put on 493 runs across the series, at an average of just above 70. While Compton didn’t make the big scores that his captain did, he helped set up the middle order to do their thing, i.e. look very hot and flustered before getting out to spin in Jonny Bairstow’s case.
Indeed, it’s the role of Bairstow that seems to hold the key to the Root/Compton debate. If England are absolutely desperate to get a ginger into the side at number six then Bairstow currently has the edge over Eoin Morgan, who is not only ginger but also rather crap (and not in the squad). But that would mean that England would have to either elevate Root to open or leave him out. And there’s not much chance of the latter, given that he’s already pencilled in to destroy all of Bradman’s batting records.
While we’re big fans of Bairstow, the idea of him replacing Compton is just wrong, for several reasons:
In conclusion, while (like everyone else) we’re now dangerously obsessed with Joe Root, the future can wait a little longer. Compton’s technique against the new ball should be invaluable in generally decent conditions for bowlers, while Root can continue to learn from the safety of the middle order. Unfortunately that leaves Bairstow as the one to miss out. Still, it’s not a patch on that heartbreaking choice between Bulbasaur, Squirtle and Charmander all those years ago. Still brings a tear to the eye, that one.