Ever since the retirement of two-time Ashes winner Andrew Strauss, English cricket's test team has been crying out for an opening partner for current skipper Alastair Cook.
Nick Compton, Joe Root, Jonathan Trott and Adam Lyth have all had chances to step up to the plate, but none have prevailed. Here are five possible contenders to fill the three-year problem of finding Cook’s opening partner.
The series in Pakistan this month brings an opportunity to Moeen Ali. With a first class average of over 37 in county cricket, Ali came into the England fold during the home tour against Sri Lanka in 2014. But the Worcestershire man has failed to nail down a specific role within the England side.
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In the 2015 home Ashes series, Moeen was drafted into the side as a spinner batting down at number eight. Now five months later he has been opening alongside Cook in the UAE against Pakistan, where he has averaged a pitiful 12 in his first five innings, putting his top order future in doubt.
Alex Hales had long been touted as one of the brightest prospects in the English game throughout last summer. Despite impressing in the One-Day and T20 teams, he is yet to play for the test side.
Hales is marked as a limited-overs specialist who has previously struggled in the long forms of cricket, but if he can perform well in the UAE in the upcoming one-day and twenty20 series against Pakistan the temptation may be for new coach Trevor Bayliss to open test matches with the Nottinghamshire batsman at the next possible opportunity, away at South Africa in December.
Durham’s Mark Stoneman is another option, but he hardly boasts an average to be overly proud of at only 31 in first class matches, though in registering six centuries in the last two county seasons he’s proved himself to be one of the more consistent openers in the country.
Another contender could be Michael Carberry, who lost his test place in January 2014. He struggled with the Duke ball in Australia only limping to a top score of 60 in 12 innings. He had a promising 2015 season, scoring just less than 1200 runs last year at an average of just under 39. But with the future in mind, selecting a 35-year-old clearly isn’t a viable long-term answer to England’s problems.
Alex Lees is another name touted by England legend Geoffery Boycott to be one of England’s next stars, after being named as Young Player of The Year by the Professional Cricketers Association. However an average 2015 in comparison to Jonny Bairstow, Adam Lyth and Jack Leaning, who all outshone the 21-year-old, means a test call up may still be a few years away.
Who do you think should open the batting alongside Alastair Cook? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below