David Lloyd is of the opinion that England’s existing Test opening pair of Rory Burns and Dom Sibley have “not set the game alight”, and he would rather have Zak Crawley opening with Jonny Bairstow.
Sibley has scored two hundreds and two fifties in his first 12 Tests, with his batting average – 38.11 – impressive, and notably higher than Michael Atherton’s mark of 37.96. However there has been discussion about his scoring rate at the top, with his 372-ball 120 in England’s second Test win over West Indies in July attracting criticism.
Burns has two hundreds and eight fifties from 21 Tests, with an average of 32.44. Lloyd, in his column for Sky Sports, wrote that “there’s so much that can go wrong” with Burns and Sibley at the top, pointing out England’s low scoring rates ahead of proposed tours to Sri Lanka and India.
“Both Burns and Sibley have quirky techniques and I doubt that they batted like that when they were 16 or 18 years old. There just seems to be so much that can go wrong.”
“If you’re just plodding along at 2.4 an over, you’re getting back to England in the 1960s and 70s! Look all around the world, in the modern game after 80 overs when you get the second new ball, you need to be about 270 or 280 and then you’ve a chance of getting 350 plus. If you’re just 210 then you’ve every chance of being all out for 280 and you’re not in the game.
“You’ve got to be able to push the score along, if the opposition can control the game at 2.4 an over then they will do and they’ll be very happy. They can keep all the slips in and attack for the world. If you’re going at 3.5 then they’ve got to push a couple back and look after the score.”
Lloyd feels that Bairstow’s attacking instincts can provide England much-needed impetus at the top of the order. The Yorkshireman has become one of the most explosive and consistent ODI openers there has been over the past few years. Among those with 1,000 or more runs at the top of the order, Bairstow is one of only five to average more than 50, while his strike-rate, of 107.88, is the best ever. In Test cricket however, only eight of his 123 innings have come higher than No.5.
He has had a tough time in the longest format over in recent times. Since the start of the 2018 summer, he has averaged 23.03 from 18 Tests, and was dropped ahead of England’s 2019 tour of New Zealand. In that time, he has developed a weakness against straight bowling, with 17 of his 32 dismissals coming bowled or lbw. He lost his central Test contract last month, while Sibley and Crawley were awarded with their maiden deals.
“England seem to have settled on Rory Burns and Dom Sibley but they’ve not set the game alight. An opening pair needs to be consistent and able to change gear, to move the game forward,” said Lloyd. “For that reason, I would definitely open with Zak Crawley, who looks so natural, and Jonny Bairstow, who is a very accomplished cricketer.
“He’d [Bairstow] be my pick; he’s pretty basic in what he does but he can change the game, there is no doubt about that.”