Who will line up at number 3 for England in the 2nd Ashes Test on Wednesday night? After Jonathan Trott’s unexpected departure from the Ashes tour last week due to mental illness, England have been left with a decision to make…
Trott has batted at 3 for England for the past 4 years and averages over 48 in 46 tests; he has undoubtedly been England’s best number 3 since Vaughan in his heyday. It is true that England have taken for granted the stability Trott has given them from number 3. Although people have always been quick to bemoan his slow scoring rate, Trott’s gritty character has meant the English fans have taken to him with greater ease than a certain other South African middle order batsman playing for England. All of this means England are suddenly finding their well made plans are being disrupted and after the embarrassment of the 1st Test England will be feeling like the whole world is against them and the loss of their batting linchpin will only add to that feeling.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The man touted to replace Trott in the pivotal number 3 position is a man I believe to be the future of English batting over the next 10 years. Joe Root will, in all likelihood, line up at 3 for England on Wednesday night. I think this will be the making of a future England captain. Root’s technique is ideally suited to facing the Australian quicks and he is adept at taking the shine off the new ball (a role he has performed with remarkable consistency for Yorkshire). His temperament is also perfect for a top order batsmen; he has that Alistair Cook like trait of treating a boundary and a false shot with the same wry smile. In a test where the spotlight will be on sledging, I believe Root will sail through without any cause for concern.
Promoting Root to 3 would also leave England’s form batsmen, Ian Bell, in his accustomed number 5 position. While Bell’s last innings at number 3 was his magnificent 225 against India at the Oval in 2011, this is not the Oval (well not the English one anyway…) and this is not a bowling attack featuring Ishant Sharma. The Australian pitches will have pace and bounce, and in Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris Australia have 2 of the most in form seamers in the world and that’s without mentioning the most underrated cricketer in the world; Peter Siddle. Root’s predominantly back foot technique will serve England better at number 3 than Bell’s balletic footwork and cover drives.
Although it is obviously sad to see Trott leave in such circumstances this can actually be a chance for England to form a new attack minded top four of Cook, Carberry, Root and Pietersen. England won the ashes series in the summer through attrition and discipline; this series will be won by aggression and audacity. I will be looking forward to seeing how England’s new look top four performs in the must win second test on Wednesday.