Renowned commentator Nasser Hussain raised concerns over the indifferent form of Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley, and insisted that call-ups to Haseeb Hameed and James Bracey indicate that the incumbents are under pressure. Hussain feels that the top-order are not doing a good job ‘protecting’ Root.
Both Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley had a subcontinent stretch to forget, but the general consensus was that they’d get back to their best during the home summer. However, after failing to get going in the County Championship - both batters averaged under 38.00 - Sibley and Crawley’s indifferent form continued at Lord’s as the duo were dismissed for single-digit scores by the Kiwi new-ball bowlers. While Sibley, who’d posted 5 consecutive single-digit scores prior to the first Test, was trapped in front for a duck by Kyle Jamieson, a loose shot saw Zak Crawley perish for 2.
The duo’s form is not alarming, yet, but former England skipper Nasser Hussain is of the opinion that their places are far from fixed. Hussain admitted that both Sibley and Crawley have credit in the bank to get a long run, but insisted that the presence of Hameed and Bracey - two specialist top-order batters - indicates that the selectors are closely monitoring the form of the incumbents.
“These guys all have credit in the bank, despite what happened in India earlier this year. But they also know that the only currency that counts is runs. The recall of Haseeb Hameed and the emergence of James Bracey — even though he’s playing here as a wicketkeeper at No 7 — are reminders that no places can be taken for granted,” Hussain wrote in his Daily Mail column.
Both Sibley and Crawley lacked discipline and concentration, and their showing was contrasting to that of their counterpart Devon Conway, who on debut put on a masterclass. Hussain compared the two youngsters with Conway, and pointed out how the Kiwi debutant showcased endless patience that enabled him to get through tough phases.
“One of the great features of Conway’s innings was that he more or less ignored everything outside his eyeline, and kept his head right behind the ball, playing it back to where it had come from. But Sibley is from the Gary Palmer school of batting — the coach who has worked with Alastair Cook and emphasises alignment, with your front leg out of the way. When Sibley sees a straight ball, he wants to work it through midwicket. The method has clearly brought him a lot of runs. But the contrast with Conway was stark,” Hussain noted.
“As for Crawley, I like the fact that he’s an attacking No 3. England probably need him to bat that way, because you can’t have him blocking after two steady openers in Sibley and Rory Burns, who looked in good touch, especially when taking on Neil Wagner’s bouncers.
“But Crawley has nicked off a few times early in his innings for Kent this summer, and life isn’t going to get any easier when India arrive with the likes of Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami.”
Not for the first time across the past three years, skipper Joe Root walked in to bat before the 10th over, and Hussain felt that the English top-order are doing a poor job of protecting the team’s best batsman.
“The other factor in this equation is the role of the captain. One of the reasons Joe Root prefers to go in at four rather than three is because of the extra time it allows him to gather his thoughts if England have been in the field.
“England need to protect their best batsman, and they know that the return of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler will strengthen their middle order. Right now, though, the top order needs to show a bit more nous. And they could do with reflecting on how Conway batted. The remaining three innings in this series are already looming large.”