Cricket

England must change but can't cut players ahead of third Ashes Test

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With England still gruelling over their embarrassing, humbling 409-run loss to Australia at Lord's, the pressure is mounting on the England selectors to make sweeping changes to the squad ahead of the third Ashes Test.

Alex Hales, Jonny Bairstow and Nick Compton have all been sounded out to come into the side in place of Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance and Ian Bell after yet another score of less than 52 for three wickets – the eighth time in 14 test innings.

Knee-jerk reactions, though, are not needed by England because rotating the batting order is the best option for the third Test at Edgbaston, where changes will be made if England suffer another loss or the top-order fails again.

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Trevor Bayliss admitted England were ‘outplayed’ in a match that was their fourth heaviest (runs) defeat on record: “It was pants down and backsides smacked.”

With the Edgbaston Test nine days away, Bayliss is considering outside options – as quoted by BBC Sport: “When you play badly, positions are looked at.”

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“It's on the mind of anyone when the team is not playing like you would like - those things are always in the back of the coach's and selectors' mind,” said Bayliss, who guided England to a comfortable victory at Cardiff in the first Investec Ashes Test.

It should be noted that against New Zealand the batting was far more controlled and successful and there were no calls for cuts to the team, which Bayliss has been quick to point out.

“Two Tests ago they were selected for these first couple because they were considered the best players in the country. That doesn't necessarily change after only four innings.

“[But] it's a concern that we are three or four for 40, and they know that,” he said.

England’s squad is due to be announced today, however, former players such as Sky Sports’ Nasser Hussain and Test Match Special’s Graeme Swann.

“Just a week ago, we won a Test match magnificently in Cardiff. Now people are panicking because we've not batted well twice at Lord's,” Swann told BBC Sport.

“These guys' jobs are on the line. They have got to go out there and start scoring big hundreds. They are all capable of it - it's more a mental thing than anything else.”

The former England spinner is right, it is not long since England were the toast of the media and the fans for their performance at the Swalec Stadium and against New Zealand.

Australia may not have been as prepared as they should have been, but they were guilty of the same mistakes in Cardiff that England have made at Lords – cheap wickets.

This was the obvious difference:

England lost the majority of their wickets to poor cricket and poor judgement, which needs to be amended for the future as soon as possible.

Lyth, Ballance and Bell may be the main targets, but every England batsman should be under the microscope for lazy play and attempting at unnecessary shots.

Kevin Pietersen believes he should be in the mix for a recall alongside Bairstow and Hales:

England are historically unwilling to make drastic line-up changes mid series, and this should remain the same.

Joe Root is comfortable batting at five in the order but could, based on form, play at three and become England’s answer to Steve Smith but should, for now, remain at five.

The move would allow Ballance to move down to five where there is less pressure and come to the crease in a more natural batting position – where he often played well in county cricket.

A better option may be to switch Ballance with Bell for the reason above but also giving Bell the backing he needs to think he is the top player to change a match.

Changing the top-order batsmen is not the answer.

England have shown this over the last four years with multiple opening pairs, none of which have seemingly been given enough time to gel and become a cohesive Test pairing.

Hales, Bairstow and Compton may all be called for by some former players – Bob Willis, certainly – but there is no guarantee that they will fare any better against this hostile Australian attack.

Hales, although a Twenty20 phenomenon, has never played a five-day match, Compton has not been in the Test side for two years while Bairstow was last selected in the 5-0 whitewash series scoring 49 runs.

The Yorkshireman, however, believes the England should be supported, not derided: “It is a time to get behind the lads. Only a week ago the fans were getting right behind them at Cardiff and they can be very fickle.

“They should now be getting behind the boys at Edgbaston and it would be wrong as a nation not to do so,” he told BBC Sport.

If it were up to the fans, the choice would no doubt be Pietersen, who still feels up to the task:

Is Bell meeting his end?

If Bell, who plays at his home ground in the next Test, proves to be uninspired and fails to provide runs, then it will almost certainly be his final appearance for the England test side.

The same could be said for Ballance, another poor performance could see him demoted from the squad – it has seemingly worked wonders for Bairstow who scored 139 runs in the previous County Championship round.

While Bairstow is favourite to come into the squad – averaging 100.66 runs, scoring 906 this season – selectors must not succumb to pressure and ring the changes as the entire team needs to go back to basics in order to improve.

If England put in a similar and shambolic performance at Edgbaston, only then will it be time to change the personal to give the team a kick up its backside rather than receive another spanking.

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Topics:
Jonny Bairstow
England cricket
The Ashes
Kevin Pietersen
Ian Bell
Cricket

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