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County Championship 2021

12 untried top-order options England could turn to in the near future

Yas Rana by Yas Rana
@Yas_Wisden 3 minute read

As many as 19 batsmen have been tried in England’s top three over the past five years, with varying degrees of success.

When Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley were short on runs earlier in the summer, they were replaced by two men – Haseeb Hameed and Dawid Malan – who have had stints in the England side in the past.

With no England Lions tour last winter and the number of batsmen who have been given a go in recent times, it’s perhaps less obvious than ever before who the next cabs off the rank actually are, especially among those who have not previously been picked for England in Test cricket.

Here’s a look at 12 top-order batsmen who might not be too far away from the England set-up should injury or a drop in form affect selection. Given that England are likely to take a larger group of players than normal for this winter’s Ashes series, it is not inconceivable that a player or two from this list makes the plane.

Tom Haines

2021 CC stats: 1101 runs @ 50.04, three hundreds

At the time of writing, Haines tops the run-scoring chart for this year’s County Championship. A left-hander with a simple technique without too many moving parts, in 2021 Haines, now 22, has delivered on the promise that saw him make his County Championship debut at the age of 17. His 155 against Lancashire in April was one of the knocks of the season.

Jake Libby

2021 CC stats: 976 runs @ 61, four hundreds

Libby averages nearly 60 across the last two summers – it’s a record not to be sniffed at, though it should come with the caveat that the majority of those runs have been scored at the aptly named New Road, one of the highest-scoring grounds in the country; Libby averages 73 in first-class games at the venue.

Josh Bohannon

2021 CC stats: 814 runs @ 62.61, two hundreds

Bohannon has enjoyed a fine start to his professional career, averaging just shy of 50 after 33 first-class games. A short, compact batsman who evokes comparisons to Jonathan Trott – particularly when flicking the ball through the leg-side – his record is one that, if maintained, will be hard to ignore for long.

Kiran Carlson

2021 CC stats: 842 runs @ 52.62, three hundreds

Carlson, 23, has experienced a similar career path to Haines in that both were highly regarded as teenagers before taking time to develop into the players they are today. A free-scoring middle-order batsman, Carlson’s game has leapt to another level in 2021.

Harry Brook

2021 CC stats: 719 runs @ 42.29, two hundreds

One of the players of the summer who is knocking on the door in both white-ball and red-ball cricket. A former under-19 captain who until 2021 had never averaged more than 25 in a County Championship season, Brook has become a key figure in the Yorkshire middle-order. Just last week Brook scored a brilliant hundred at home to Somerset, hitting 118 in a low-scoring affair.

Joe Clarke

2021 CC stats: 632 runs @ 37.17, no hundreds

Probably the most established player on this list, Clarke has had a strange 2021 in first-class cricket in that he has often looked good, but has never gone on to make a start really count – he has seven scores between 50 and 67 from 18 innings. Still only 25, he has an impressive 17 first-class hundreds already in the bank.

Nick Gubbins

2021 CC stats: 735 runs @ 36.75, two hundreds

Another, like Clarke, whose England credentials have been talked about for a while. Gubbins’ move to Hampshire seems to have reinvigorated the 27-year-old, who now bats at four for his adopted county – he scored an unbeaten 137 in his second game for the county.

Tom Abell

2021 CC stats: 697 runs @ 49.78, one hundred

Mr Somerset has been in excellent form across formats this summer. Generally batting in the top three and playing his home games on one of the spicier surfaces in the country, he is probably the closest of anyone on this list to an England Test call-up.

Rob Yates

2021 CC stats: 658 runs @ 32.90, three hundreds

While his overall record doesn’t leap off the page just yet, Yates, 21, is a player of immense potential. A watchful left-handed opener, only Libby has more County Championship hundreds than Yates in 2021.

Ollie Robinson

2021 CC stats: 598 runs @ 35.17, one hundred

Similar to Yates in that his career record does not immediately stand out, Robinson already attracted the attention of the England hierarchy, earning selection on last year’s England Lions tour of Australia.

Alex Davies

2021 CC stats: 582 runs @ 38.80, no hundreds

One of the most consistent players in the country but one who doesn’t convert his fifties into hundreds nearly enough – only five of his 38 fifty-plus first-class scores have been turned into centuries. He has two strings to his bow – he opens and he keeps – and will hope that his impending move to Warwickshire will take his game to the next level.

Sam Hain

2021 CC stats: 740 runs @ 37.00, one hundred

Best known for his List A average – though he hasn’t played a game in the format in nearly two and a half years – Hain is an important cog in the Warwickshire machine that is threatening to win a first County Championship title in nine years. A cautious red-ball batsman, Hain generally bats in the top four but you’d think would need a summer of particularly heavy scoring to work his way into contention.

Liam Livingstone

2021 CC stats: 77 runs @ 11, no hundreds

Livingstone would simultaneously be a selection based on form, and one that that ignores it entirely. The standout player of the white-ball summer, he has quickly made himself undroppable from Eoin Morgan’s T20I side but Livingstone has found life tough in the County Championship. It’s been two years since he passed 25 in red-ball cricket but despite that galling statistic, if you’re ever going to pick someone for Test cricket on white-ball form, Australia with its hard, fast and true pitches and Kookaburra ball is the best place to do it.

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