Desperately seeking Ballance: England shuffle Test batting order

Yorkshire's No 5 will bat at first wicket down and Root was opening a year ago but comes in at five – so it's up to the bowlers to lead the way

lord's

In a bold manoeuvre which augurs well for the conduct of the new regime, England have announced their new Test batting order. If this rare audacity of unveiling team secrets so close to the game seemed to be telling Sri Lanka and everybody else that they had nothing to hide and there would be no stepping back from now on, it is impossible to imagine that the same top seven will still be operating at the end of the summer.

Should they somehow stay in occupation, everything will have gone right and Peter Moores, the returning coach, and Alastair Cook, the captain in whom so much faith has been placed, will be hailed as seers rather than judges of a cricketer. It is rather suspected that England intend to sweep these tourists aside with the use of fast and hostile bowling, much of it aimed at an area between the chest and the head.

That is why Liam Plunkett has been recalled after seven years. If he can send down his 90mph-plus missiles in anything like the right location Sri Lanka will be in trouble. Chris Jordan, one of three debutants, will not be far behind. England are not preparing pitches for cissies and if Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad can offer some semblance of control as well as penetration then that is one element fulfilled (it may even negate the lack of spin).

But this is predicated on the side making totals which enter into the realms of acceptability. In only one of their last 16 first innings in Test matches have England made above 400 and they have made more than 500 only once in their last 30. Contrast that with a brief, heady period between late 2009 and 2011 when, in 23 matches, they scored above 700 once, 600 twice, 500 five times and 400 six times.

Cook will have his eighth Test opening partner in Sam Robson, who will hope that he comes closer to walking out with his captain the 117 times that Cook did with Andrew Strauss, rather than the 17 which the next person on the list, Nick Compton, managed. Cook needs runs almost as much as he needs a win.

The big surprise, however, was Gary Ballance being confirmed at No 3. Ballance may well have all the qualities needed for the role and appears to have a phlegmatic nature. For all that, it is no more than a hunch. In 79 first-class innings, Ballance has batted once at first drop, when he made a duck against India A in 2010 and faced three balls.

Presumably, England did not adduce the evidence of that brief experiment four years ago but must have seen something in Ballance that has not been seen at Yorkshire. It is reasonable to suppose that the decision was made recently because in his eight Championship innings for Yorkshire this season he has batted at five.

Much is made of batting positions that probably does not exist in the mind of the professional batsman. They have to bat somewhere. But for a player who has spent his career down in the middle order this is a big deal. Ballance could easily be walking out to face the new ball in the first over.

The decision was based on the combination of right-handers and left-handers in England's order and the desirability for Ian Bell to fill the space at No 4 vacated by Kevin Pietersen. Joe Root, who has had six outings at No 3 – the latest in Australia where, in Adelaide, he made 87 before it all went awry – moves down to bat at five.

Root embodies the mess into which England's batting has plunged. Less than a year ago he was anointed as Cook's new opening partner for a generation as Compton, who had not done much wrong except care too much and had done much right in playing a full part in the magnificent Test series victory in India and then scoring two hundreds in New Zealand, was unceremoniously dumped.

Moeen Ali, the new kid on the block, will go in at six, the position that was occupied in Australia by Ben Stokes when he scored England's first hundred in the position for almost three years in Perth. Matt Prior, once the most effective No 7 on the planet, will resume there.

The order thus reads left, right, left, right, right, left, right. It may work but Ballance will be taking phlegm to extremes were he to relish the prospect of walking out at Lord's at 11.05am on a green top.

England need weight of runs to be sure of seeing off an avowedly determined Sri Lanka, who remain nonplussed by the fuss over their actions in running out Jos Buttler, while backing up, in a one-day international last week. But runs, as recent history shows, are not guaranteed and as the order indicates, England are not sure where they might come from.

Sri Lanka have not won any of their six previous Test matches at Lord's but drew the first and the most recent three. They have a side that is vastly inexperienced in English conditions, and to have any hope of prevailing the tourists will need big scores from the valedictory veterans, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, who will not be passing this way again. Their main selection conundrum is whether to play two spinners.

The contest will be ferocious and although Angelo Mathews, the tourists' captain, insisted that his side were not aggressive, he also made it plain that they are prepared to stand up to England. It would be welcome if the home side won with a smile. Doing anything without a snarl would be a start.

Life and Style
Divers at Bouldnor Cliff underwater site in the Solent off the Isle of Wight, where the silt sample containing the einkorn DNA was found
life
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower