Trevor Bayliss warns Nick Compton he needs England runs at Lord’s
The England coach, Trevor Bayliss, may have reassured Nick Compton he wants him to remain part of his plans, but the Australian has also made it clear the Middlesex batsman needs runs in his home Test at Lord’s next week to retain his place.
Compton’s form at No 3 has come into sharp focus this summer despite England cantering to wins in their opening two Tests against Sri Lanka at Headingley and Durham. With the series already won ahead of the final match at Lord’s, starting on Thursday week, Bayliss has one eye on the future, notably the next Ashes series in Australia in the winter of 2017-18.
“We’ve still got a long way to go before we reach our best,” he said. “If we want to compete against Australia, the No 1 team, on a consistent basis there are areas we need to improve.”
One of those areas is undoubtedly the top order. Alex Hales has overcome a disappointing debut Test series in South Africa last winter and looks more at home as Alastair Cook’s opening partner following half-centuries in the past two Tests. Yet Compton, despite an unbeaten 22 that helped England chase down 79 to win by nine wickets at Durham, has still not scored more than 44 in any form of cricket this summer.
“It would be a concern for him he’s not scoring as many runs as he would like,” admitted Bayliss. “Whenever anyone’s a little out of form there’s always that little bit of a worry I suppose. Next week’s Test is on his home ground so we all want him to score runs and be a part of this team going forward.”
England named an unchanged 12-man squad for Lord’s immediately after winning the second Test, an attempt, admitted Bayliss, to stop “speculation” over Compton’s future. However, such speculation isn’t helped when the coach reels off a list of batsmen who could come in to replace the under-pressure incumbent.
For Tom Westley, Mark Stoneman, Scott Borthwick, Daniel Bell-Drummond and Sam Robson the gauntlet has been laid down. If Compton fails at Lord’s those five batsman are in contention for England’s second Test series of the summer against Pakistan.
“There’s a number of guys scoring runs isn’t there? Westley from Essex, Stoneman and Borthwick from up here [Durham]. Robson, the young guy from Kent – Bell-Drummond. There are guys there and going into Lord’s with the same team just allows those guys to keep scoring runs over the next two or three county matches if we do need to make any changes.”
Westley and Bell-Drummond are both plying their trade in the Second Division of the County Championship, often seen as a barrier to entry to Test cricket. But Bayliss has reassured both that that is not the case. “If they’re thought of as good enough and, more than anything, can handle the step up mentally there’s no reason why we couldn’t [select them],” he said.
There would be no qualms about picking a county opener – Robson, Stoneman and Bell-Drummond all bat at the top of the order – at No 3 either. “That’s a possibility,” said Bayliss. “Hopefully it doesn’t get to that.”
Bayliss indicated England will name an unchanged XI for Lord’s. It means Steven Finn, Compton’s Middlesex team-mate, also looks set to retain his place ahead of uncapped Nottinghamshire seamer Jake Ball despite admitting he has been struggling for rhythm this summer. “I thought the two Tests Steven played in South Africa, he was probably our best pace bowler,” said Bayliss. “I fully expect him to get back to where he was in that series very shortly. We know the devastating bowler he can be when he gets it right.”
As for Cook, who on Monday became the youngest player and first Englishman to reach 10,000 Test runs, Bayliss believes the infusion of youth into the squad has revitalised England’s captain.
“When I first got here [last summer], all of the criticism and not necessarily winning as much as he’d have liked was weighing him down,” said Bayliss. “I think a newer, younger team and winning with that team has given him a new lease of life.”