For all the boardroom blundering and social media sideswiping in English cricket, there have, on the pitch at least, been signs of encouragement for this relatively young England side.
Undeniably the chief of these has been Joe Root’s resurgence, after the disastrous Ashes tour of 2013-14, with the 24-year-old averaging an unbelievable 94.84 in the 11 Tests since then, earning him England’s Player of the Year award and establishing him as one of world cricket’s most exciting talents.
Gary Ballance too has made an impressive start to his Test career, averaging 65.35 and becoming the equal ninth-fastest man to reach 1000 Test runs.
Elsewhere Ben Stokes has shown flashes of his prodigious talents, while Mark Wood’s lively debut has given a glimpse of possibly very exciting things to come.
However in spite of all this, one area remains a concern for England and that is their opening pair.
Since the retirement of Andrew Strauss, whose 177 innings together with Alastair Cook yielded 4711 runs at an average of 40.96, England have failed to settle on an opening partnership they are happy with.
While their latest experiment with Jonathan Trott in the Caribbean proved to be an obvious failure, there is a sense that many of their problems before have been self-created rather than unavoidable.
The treatment of Nick Compton is the epitome of this, discarded after the last home series against New Zealand despite enjoying a largely successful partnership with Cook – 927 runs at an average of 57.93 – there was a sense he was never really the man England wanted for the job and as a result he was never given the run his undoubted talent deserved.
He is not the only England opener who has the right to feel aggrieved, Michael Carberry, who made his Test bow as Andy Flower’s Rome burned chaotically all around him Down Under, is another who was given insufficient chance to prove his worth – 10 innings is scarcely enough to fully measure a man.
While Alastair Cook has never, as far as the selectors are concerned at least, been under any time pressure to prove himself, his myriad partners have not enjoyed the same luxury – expected to shine immediately, despite limited support from the other end.
Root, who thankfully has flourished elsewhere in England’s side, was another given just 10 innings, while Sam Robson’s 11 hardly make him any more fortunate.
And now Adam Lyth is the latest man onto the openers’ merry-go-round and while scores of 7 and 12 in this Test have been nothing to write home about, he has earned his place on the back of last year’s stellar county performances and must now be given a good run in the side.
After the barren decades of English cricket, with selectors chopping and changing more regularly than an indecisive child with a Mr Potato Head, much faith was put in a policy of giving new players a fair run in the side and England reaped the rewards, becoming the number one ranked Test side.
It is a policy that seems to have been forgotten in recent years and the results have, for many, been plain to see.
Lyth and England fans must now hope it is something that this time can be successfully re-integrated back into the England fold.Reuse content