Former England skipper and renowned expert Nasser Hussain believes No.3 is the ‘problem position’ for England, but is of the opinion that Jonny Bairstow, with his new tightened technique, could slot in the position and help the side out.
Bairstow averages 30.76 at the No.3 position, and was picked on white-ball form, but on his Test comeback at Trent Bridge, the 31-year-old displayed a much-improved, more solid version of himself despite not getting a big score. Hussain opined that he cannot see Crawley retaining his place, and suggested Bairstow as an option to slot in at No.3.
“The problem position is No 3. Pope was part of England’s first-choice team before he injured a thigh, so it makes sense that he returns to the side — but he’s never batted above No 4 for Surrey,” Hussain wrote in his column for the Daily Mail.
“And if Joe Root, the captain and — by a distance — best player, is unwilling to move up a place, England would be shooting themselves in the foot by risking the runs he scores at No 4.
“That potentially leaves Jonny Bairstow as a makeshift No 3. He’s had problems in the past against the moving red ball, but he has tightened up his technique — he now goes back and across — so he could be an option.”
There are whispers that Haseeb Hameed, who struck a ton against India in the warm-up game prior to the first Test, could potentially replace Crawley, but Hussain believes that the 24-year-old would be better off slotting in up top, alongside Rory Burns. Hameed, according to Hussain, edges Sibley out ‘on potential’.
“If they’re keen for Hameed to play, then I would have no problem with him replacing Dom Sibley. Rory Burns was player of the series against New Zealand, so he can’t be dropped after one bad game, and if you’re picking on potential, Hameed edges Sibley.
“I can easily see them sticking with Sibley after he twice saw off the new ball at Trent Bridge, but I’d have no issues with Hameed walking out to open this morning.”
Hussain also said that, should Anderson also sit out the Test, he would like to see the Three Lions field an attack comprising Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson, Sam Curran and Saqib Mahmood, with Moeen Ali being the spinning all-rounder.
Present in the England squad is Craig Overton, who averages 13.40 in the ongoing County season, but Hussain asserted that he would prefer England handing a maiden Test cap to Mahmood, who won the Man of the Series award in the three-match ODI series against Pakistan last month.
“Moeen Ali has a great opportunity now to prove the skills that have brought him nearly 3,000 Test runs and nearly 200 wickets can do a good job for England.
“Clearly Ollie Robinson plays again, because he has made an excellent start to his Test career, and will have fond memories of Lord’s — at least on the field — after his strong debut there against New Zealand in June. I’d also go with the express pace of Wood, and there is room for Sam Curran to provide left-arm swing and lower-order hitting.
“The tricky one is the last seam-bowling slot, but I’d go for Saqib Mahmood ahead of Craig Overton, even though Mahmood has only just been drafted into the squad. I like what I have seen from him every time he has played, and he is the type of bowler, with his reverse swing, who could do well in Australia.”