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Numbers don't lie - England's first innings woes need to be looked into!

England vs Pakistan - First Test - Lord's Cricket Ground
©Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

Cricket is a number’s game and while people say that numbers don’t always tell the true story, the same cannot be said about England’s test team at the moment. As they look to avoid their third series loss in a row and their seventh defeat in their last ten tests, it is their batsmen who have their work cut out.

Calls have been made by experts to drop James Anderson and Stuart Broad, and while they might not be at their pomp any more, they are certainly not the major cause of concern for England by any means. If one looks at the performances of their top seven batsmen in the recently concluded five tests, it gives a picture about the sorry state of them.

In the first innings of the past five tests, the opposition top seven have managed to score 1744 runs among them as opposed 1060 scored by the English batsmen. That equates to an average of 137 runs per match. If one considers a 137-run lead for the opposition after the first innings, then it makes things only more difficult during the second innings. At the same time, while opposition batsmen have had sixteen or more scores of fifty, including six centuries, England just have six scores of fifty or more including two hundreds.

Digging deeper into the analysis, if we go by runs by position, it gives a more vivid picture of the players whose form have been the major causes of concern for England. The number two batsmen for opposition average 37.8 as opposed to only 17.8 for England. This has resulted in the axing of Mark Stoneman and it remains to be seen how Keaton Jennings fares in his second shot at the top. The bigger casualties however lie at numbers three and five. In their last five test matches, England’s number three has only managed to score 64 runs at an average of 12.8 in the first innings as opposed to 351 runs at 70.2 for the opposition. These figures include two tons, one of which is a 171 by Usman Khawaja at Sydney. What England needs is someone to churn out daddy hundreds at number three, somewhat like a Cheteshwar Pujara or a Kane Williamson.

The next real spot of bother is the number five position. While England’s number five batsmen have managed only 103 runs from five first innings hits, the opposition has amassed 430 runs at an average of 86. This again includes two centuries and a fifty for the opposition in contrast to one fifty and two ducks for England. Numbers don’t always tell the story and that is  the case with England’s number one position – Alastair Cook. The number one position is the only position where England have scored more runs than the opposition and that margin is by 276 runs. Out of these 276 runs, 244 came from Cook’s bat in Melbourne. Apart from that knock, he has hardly made any impact with the bat over the past year or so.

There have been calls for senior players like Cook to be dropped. There have been fingers pointed at Joe Root’s captaincy and Trevor Bayliss’ coaching. The experts would do well if they really looked into the deeper issues before calling for unwanted and radical changes!       

England need to address the deficit  

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