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Today I’m going to try to have a look at the next group of batsmen in line for England. Obviously I’m no expert on English county cricket and will only be making guesses from statistical analysis and newspaper clippings as such.
First stop is good old StatsGuru.
When looking over the list of highest run scorers from Division 1, it is clear why Jonny Bairstow has been brought back into the fold. His record for this season is light years ahead of the rest. His 980 runs at 108.8 (S/R 78.27) with a top score of 219* is impressive by anyone’s books. Personally I put a lot of weight behind anyone that can score double hundreds; even on the flattest wickets it still takes concentration and resolve. Having never scored one myself, I know I used to start thinking I was going ok around 20, and was generally out by 25 because of it.
Behind Bairstow is Luke Wright, who we are familiar with from his time at the Melbourne stars in the Big Bash League. We have seen his power in the short form, but after 50 ODI matches for England, his average is an unimpressive 20.2. From memory, I found him to be very on or off. His striking is as clean as anyone with the power to match, but test cricket demands consistency.
Scott Borthwick has scored 854 at 42.7 and was touted as a spinning option for England by Graeme Swann back in 2013. Despite his season average being seven runs higher than his career average, It wouldn’t be unfair to say that he probably isn’t viewed as a top order prospect to solve the current issues. He is only young, 25, and probably has his eye on a role similar to Moeen Ali.
James Hildreth seems to have the history of being looked at as a future prospect. He has played for the England’s U/15’s, U/19’s and as a member of the Performance Squad in 2007/08. It seems he never quite made the jump into what was a successful period for English Cricket. To be honest, anyone looking to make the jump into test cricket for any country should be averaging well over 50 and closer to 60 in their local competition.
When expanding to division 2, Ashwell Prince tops the list as most runs with 1311 at 81.93 (S/R 67.85) with a high score of 261. Obviously he is unavailable being an international.
To me, highest averages are a better judge, as long as there have been enough innings on the board. I struggled to get a straight table sorted for highest averages. The only one that consistently came up was a minimum of 20 innings, which is fair enough. Except that eliminated the top eight averages.
Our mate KP is right up there at the moment with an average of a tick over 150. But im not even going to go there, that is an entire blog on its own.
We have already spoken about Bairstow (108.8) and Prince (81.93). Between them is Steven Davies (85.0) unfortunately he is a keeper/middle order batsmen.
Then comes Chris Read (58.9) the former England representative, who is past a recall.
Tom Westley is averaging 55.0 after 14 innings, which is a massive 20 runs higher than his career average. At 26 he is the right age for a long term prospect, and he has also had success at the top of the order. He has been spoken about for some time, but an injury a few years ago slowed progress and this year it seems it might be getting it together. The question is would you throw him against Johnson and co now? Or hold him off and give him a chance to dominate a season at county level and see if he can sustain, before throwing him to the lions?
There seems to be a concerning trend across all these statistics. Outside of Westley, the top performers are either middle order batsmen, internationals, or reaching the end of their careers.
This must be ringing alarm bells at the ECB.
It wasn’t so long ago that we faced a similar problem in Australia. A few retired greats and no real succession plan, led to a period of frustration for Aussie fans and selectors alike. It’s really only in the last 18-24 months that stocks have started to fill up.
I think I remember hearing talk, or reading articles, a few years ago about starting to move Australian pitches towards more batsmen friendly so we could develop the mental toughness of batting for long periods and bowling long spells to prepare for test cricket better.
I’m not sure how much change to pitch preparation there was, if there was even such a discussion, but I think the drop in wickets have definitely taken away some of the distinct personalities from our pitches. In a purists sense it does my head in, but sport is a business and sharing these amazing facilities goes hand in hand, so what will be, will be.
All teams ebb and flow in their success. Some can sustain at the top longer than others, but all dynasties fall. I’m certainly not saying that England had a dynasty, but success papers over problems in the local system. We found it here in Australia and we paid for it on the international scene for a few years. England may be staring down the barrel of such a period, which is bittersweet.
International cricket needs a strong English side. Unfortunately they are integral to the sport on a global marketing scale. Let’s hope things turn around quickly, but no too quick….