Beyond Zak Crawley: Five other batters who could open for England in Test cricket
Another pair of low scores in the first Test against South Africa has heightened the focus upon Zak Crawley’s position at the top of the order for England.
The England opener is averaging 16.4 in Tests this summer and has a high score of 46 from 10 innings.
England’s new management continue to back Crawley; after his first-innings dismissal at Lord’s assistant coach Paul Collingwood said: “We don’t necessarily look for consistency with Zak. It’s about match-winning performances and being able to do special things… We’re confident he can turn things around and have those match-winning contributions.”
England named a 14-man squad for the first two Tests ahead of the series, and with Harry Brook – a middle-order batter at Yorkshire – the only option on the bench to replace Crawley, the hosts may well persist with the Kent opener.
But if Crawley’s struggles continue, and England decide a change is necessary, they could potentially turn to one of these batters.
Sibley’s selection for the Lions against South Africa earlier this month suggests that he remains in England’s thoughts; he responded with a 62-ball 48 in his only innings. Eleven County Championship appearances this summer have brought the right-hander – who has two Test tons to his name – 625 runs at an average of 36.76.
Jennings was Sibley’s opening partner in that Lions match, his appearance coming on the back of a couple of very productive seasons at Lancashire. The left-hander, who played the last of his 17 Tests in February 2019, hit a triple-century against Somerset earlier this summer and is averaging 68.81 in this year’s County Championship.
Brook has batted himself into England’s Test squad on the back of middle-order runs for Yorkshire, and his century for the Lions against the Proteas came at No.4. But as the only reserve batter in England’s squad for the second Test, he could well be the next man in if England decide an immediate change is necessary.
Duckett also tonned up for the Lions earlier this month, top-scoring with 145 off 168 balls at No.5. He has been prolific at No.3 for Nottinghamshire this season and does have some experience of opening the batting for England in Test cricket, having accompanied Alastair Cook at the top of the order in Bangladesh six years ago.
Having played 32 Tests, Burns is a heavily experienced option England could turn to. Since losing his place during last winter’s Ashes, the left-hander has piled on the runs for Surrey, bouncing back from a slow start to average 45.12 in this year’s County Championship.
Haseeb Hameed has also put aside a difficult winter to dominate in the shires – he’s hit three tons and five half-centuries for Nottinghamshire in 11 County Championship matches this season. Crawley’s teammates at Kent have also excelled: Ben Compton sits at the top of Division One’s run-scoring charts with 1,119 runs at 62.16; Daniel Bell-Drummond, like Compton, has hit four first-class hundreds this summer. Sam Robson remains a consistent run-getter for Middlesex and also has Test experience behind him.