Yesterday, we looked at England's worryingly frequent habit of batting collapses, of which there have been five in six innings in the current test series with Pakistan - see story here.
This prompted us to find out how each of England's top six plus Ian Bell have fared in 2010. The findings are concerning ahead of the fourth test tomorrow and even more so considering what awaits this winter. The table below gives a summary of the 2010 to date performance of each of seven batsmen who will contest the six batting spots available in the Ashes XI.
|England top order batsmen - Averages since 1 Jan 2010|
Let's start with the positive. Ever since his recall to the side at Edgbaston last summer, Bell appears to have added steel to his immense talent. His century at Durban (not included in the above analysis as it was in the last test of 2009) and his back-to-the-wall rearguard at Cape Town seems to suggest that Bell is about to justify his obvious class. Set against that though is his poor record against Australia, which sees him only averaging 25.68 in 13 tests with no hundreds.
Elsewhere, most observers would agree that Trott has been England's batsman of the summer. He also seems to have the number three spot nailed down where his obdurate style would seem to be well suited. Cook's average, which appears healthy on the surface, is inflated by his two hundreds in Bangladesh. Whilst he is to be applauded for the mental strength and positive approach he exhibited during his place-saving hundred at The Oval, he also has a poor record against the Australians. And one swallow does not make a summer. Cook's fragility just outside off-stump has not suddenly disappeared and will likely be exposed again by the Australian bowlers.
Despite their match-winning partnership at Trent Bridge, Collingwood and Morgan have had fallow series' thereafter. Collingwood's spot should be safe however. He has a better record away from England, averaging 47.88, did well on the last tour of Australia and is someone you want in the trenches with you when the bullets are flying. Morgan's place would seem most at risk from Bell's return. His hundred at Trent Bridge was a remarkable innings, but Pakistan's seamers and Saeed Ajmal have since exposed chinks in his armour for the Australians to focus on.
But most worrying of all for England supporters is the form of the team's best batsman and its captain. It is probably safe to say that if England are to retain the Ashes, then they will need Pietersen and Strauss to fire. The former seems to have lost his inimitable swagger and confidence and has now gone 15 test matches without a hundred. Pietersen doesn't seem to have recovered from losing the captaincy and one wonders if we will ever see the batsman of 2005-08 again. Hopefully, the prospect of retaining the Ashes in the Aussies backyard will get KP's juices flowing again.
Strauss too is having a bad run and is without a hundred in 12 tests since hitting 161 in the Lord's test during last summer's Ashes. He had a poor tour of South Africa and although he has looked in decent touch most times that he has come to the crease this summer, the big scores are still eluding him. After his Atlas like performance in 2009, when he pretty much carried the England batting during the series, it is absolutely crucial that Strauss is back to his best come Brisbane in November.
The manner of defeat at The Oval last week exposed the cracks in the England batting that had lain partially hidden by Pakistan's even worse batting woes and the fact that England kept winning. Doubtless a sharp operator like Andy Flower was already aware of this growing problem and has put measures in place to retrieve the situation. England's hopes in Australia will depend on these measures paying off.