“Alastair Cook” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by theglobalpanorama
England’s Test cricket side needs a new opener after long-serving leading runscorer Alastair Cook called time on his international career.
The announcement from Cook came before the final summer Test against India – a dead rubber as Trevor Bayliss’ boys had already taken an unassailable 3-1 series lead – and 11 months before the Ashes are up for grabs.
Replacing someone of Cook’s stature, experience and composure at the crease, having scored well over 12,000 Test runs, is no mean feat for England. Captain Joe Root and head coach Bayliss have two away series over the winter – first in Sri Lanka in November and then the West Indies in the New Year – to trial new opening partnerships.
Cook’s international retirement has only strengthened Australia’s status as betting favourites for the 2019 Ashes series. They are now odds-on in the outright cricket betting available at bet365 to keep the urn with England eased out to 13/8 and a draw over the five Tests a 5/1 chance.
How will the ECB selectors go about replacing Cook? Here are five players they could turn to now in a bid to fill his considerable batting boots…
Yorkshire’s Bairstow opens in white ball cricket, so why not give him a go in that spot in the Test team? While fellow wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler remains in the red ball XI, there’s more than enough firepower in the middle order to make this worth a try.
Another shuffling the pack option is to give all-rounder Ali another go at being first at the crease. He certainly delivered with his spin bowling against India in the fourth Test recently, yet flattered to deceive when last tried higher up the batting order against their bitter rivals and neighbours Pakistan. A more experienced Ali may not struggle so much now he’s regained his place, however.
Surrey’s Stoneman is arguably the most consistent of those openers in and around the England setup with five scores of between 50 and 60 in Tests. He looks a solid, if unspectacular, choice to take over from Cook, but that might be the whole point if remaining relatively effective in this form of cricket.
Sticking with Surrey, their uncapped captain Burns is closing in on 1000 County Championship runs in Division One for this season. If picking players on form is any indication, and the presence of teammate Ollie Pope in the squad for the fifth Test against India suggests that this is the case, then Burns surely has to have a shout of an international call-up sooner or later.
South Africa-born Lancashire opener Jennings partnered Cook as England wrapped up that series win against India and already has a Test century under his belt. The only trouble is that was on his debut in 2016 and he’s only made one score above 50 since. Jennings will nonetheless be in the running to remain first at the crease despite poor scores in this most recent series.