With a Test series against New Zealand beginning on Thursday, England’s selectors have reason to be optimistic after the fine early season form of some of the country’s most prodigious youngsters.
Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and James Taylor have all produced innings of note in the notoriously bowler friendly conditions of the early English summer.
Root and Bairstow will turn out for England in the first Test at Lords, while Taylor has reminded Geoff Miller and his team why they handed him his Test debut against South Africa last summer.
Root goes into the first Test on course to become only the 8th man ever (Don Bradman did it twice), and the first since Graeme Hick in 1988, to score 1,000 runs before the end of May.
In four innings the 22-year-old Yorkshireman has racked up an incredible 646 runs, including his highest first class score of 236 against Derbyshire and two other scores in excess of 175.
He looks in good shape to score his first international ton in what will be his first-ever appearance at Lords this week. Root is expected to bat at number five, but will be keen to make runs in order to challenge Nick Compton for his favoured opener's role alongside the captain, Alastair Cook, ahead of the Ashes double header later this year.
Root made a huge impression skippering the England Lions last week against the Kiwis and he will be hoping that he can replicate his spectacular 179 at the home of cricket this week.
This was a performance so impressive that it has seen him tipped as a future England captain by the likes of Michael Vaughan and Alec Stewart. Root was joined in that Lions side by Bairstow and Taylor, both of whom look set to join him as fixtures in the England batting line-up in years to come.
After a miserable winter, in which he travelled to India and New Zealand with England, making a minimal and unremarkable contribution in his sole Test match in each, and an inauspicious start to the county season, Jonny Bairstow looks like he is starting to hit his straps.
He has enjoyed two sizeable stands with Root - 231 against Derbyshire and 135 against the Black Caps for the Lions, and is averaging 51 for the season. He gets his chance at Lords due to Kevin Pietersen’s knee injury, but with the controversial star expected to return ahead of schedule, Bairstow will be keen to lay down a marker before the Australians come to town.
With a strike-rate of nearly 68 this season and his 186 against Derbyshire coming in just 193 deliveries, the Yorkshireman looks a good fit to replace the mercurial Pietersen. If he replicates his Lords form of late last summer - a classy 95 and a dominant 54 against the South Africans - he may yet get his chance against Michael Clarke’s Australians.
And so to the one who misses out, Taylor. A failure for the Lions last week did him no favours and the Ashes this summer look a long way off for the diminutive Nottinghamshire man.
However, after taking a number of blows to his confidence since his England debut and a slow start to his career at Trent Bridge, he looks to be finding his feet. While Root and Bairstow line up against the Kiwis, he will be captaining Notts for the first time as his stock continues to rise. With a century in each form of the game for his county this summer and his ability to keep his wicket (as demonstrated in his debut Test last summer, when he scored 34 in a 147-run partnership with Pietersen), Taylor looks to be in a very good place. If he can continue to score big runs consistently, he may well find himself on the England plane to Australia in October.
There has been further encouragement for the England selectors through the form of Australian-born Middlesex man Sam Robson and Sussex’s Luke Wells, but they will be most excited about the three men to whom they have already handed debuts. If Root, Taylor and Bairstow can keep this form up, then England’s batting looks to be in good hands for some years to come.
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