England, it appears, may soon be on the lookout for new batsmen. Among a disappointingly small group of contenders, Stephen Moore stands out: the Worcestershire opener already has a ton against Australia this summer, having struck 120 for the England Lions less than two weeks ago, hard as that may be to believe. Events in Cardiff have made Australia's travails at Worcester during those sun-dappled early July days seem as if they occurred in some distant era.
The Aussies have moved on – and how – but Moore remains in the same good form. South African-born like so many of the English game's best cricketers, Moore struck 107 against Lancashire in the County Championship First Division at Old Trafford yesterday, in the process holding his side's second innings together.
Batsmen on both sides have struggled against the swinging ball – Lancashire coach Peter Moores, who may be feeling rather happier to have been given the boot by England, believes this match has exposed poor technique – but Moore has been the exception.
As he thrived, however, wickets fell regularly at the other end. Having wrapped up the Lancashire innings for 145 this morning, the visitors lost Daryl Mitchell and Vikram Solanki before lunch. A 79-run partnership between Moore and Ben Smith ended when Smith was out for 28 before Moeen Ali (3), Steve Davies (25), Moore and Gareth Batty (4) went in quick order. Worcestershire were all out for 236, leaving Lancashire needing 264 to win. They had moved confidently to 40-0 at stumps.
Moore is not quite the only contender for England honours – there is also his England Lions opening partner Joe Denly, who hit an unbeaten 79 for Kent against Surrey in their Second Division match at The Oval yesterday. He shared a partnership of 152 with Rob Key before rain stopped play after tea. Denly reached his 50 from 76 balls and celebrated by striking sixes off Murtaza Hussain and Chris Schofield, the latter deposited into the pavilion. Key was slightly quicker to his 50 but given the terrible time he has endured you can understand him being in something of a rush. This was his first half-century this season.
Key too, entertains England ambitions but yesterday's innings notwithstanding, a 16th Test cap seems a long way off for Kent's genial skipper. His side, though, are well-placed in this match having dismissed Surrey for 386 earlier in the day.
The other Second Division match yesterday, which saw Leicestershire entertain Middlesex, also bore witness to a promising young English batsman. Joshua Cobb, who hit an outstanding double-century for England Under-19s against their Bangladesh counterparts at Scarborough in June, moved from 65 not out overnight to 95 before he was dismissed by Tim Murtagh (four for 70).
The Foxes' last wicket partnership of Harry Gurney and Andrew Harris then added another 49 together to give their side a handy 85-run lead on first innings. Middlesex were on the brink of defeat at the close on 76-6.
If Worcester encouraged false English hope two weeks ago, that most admired of English county grounds provided cricket very much in tune with the dismal national mood yesterday. Having bowled Australia's women out for 309 in the morning, England slumped to 116-5 when rain intervened. Claire Taylor, a Wisden Cricketer of the Year, and Charlotte Edwards, the England captain, fell for just 10 runs each as Australia moved into a dominant position in this only Ashes Test.
It's enough to make you want to forget the English summer altogether.