Sportsdesk Comment with Daniel Gregory: England yet to face their acid test

Dare we say that England’s Test cricketers have turned the corner?

By Daniel Gregory
Friday, 14th August 2015, 2:32 pm
On their way back to the top? Alastair Cook's England face tricky tours against Pakistan and South Africa in the coming months

Things are undoubtedly looking up. They are 3-1 up against the Aussies with one Test left, their skipper is packing it in and one of their most experienced players in Brad Haddin has fled back Down Under.

For me, Alastair Cook’s side are currently negotiating the corner rather than leaving it in their wake.

They face a trip to Dubai to tackle Pakistan in October, before facing the best Test side in the world on their own patch when visiting South Africa between December and February.

Sign up to our daily The Scarborough News Today newsletter

Those two series will be the acid test for coach Trevor Bayliss and this England team’s new approach to Test cricket.

The side look in much better shape than the one who stuttered to a bore-draw in the West Indies just a few months ago.

Captain Cook epitomises the turn-around.

Cook’s approval rating as skipper would’ve rivalled that of former Labour leader Ed Milliband before this Ashes series, but he’s slowly winning over his doubters.

That, in no small part, is down to the plethora of exciting young players at his disposal and the addition of an easy-going yet attacking coach Bayliss, who has championed a more free-flowing approach.

Root is the number one ranked Test batsman in the game now, he is quite simply a run machine, and the captain-elect.

Stokes is box office and has showed more signs of maturity to go alongside his undoubted talent in this Ashes series, so it bodes well for England.

The pace attack is outstanding with Steven Finn and Mark Wood completing the jigsaw alongside Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson and Stokes.

Having said that, there are a few areas of obvious weakness that need addressing if England are to even challenge for South Afrcia’s top spot.

While Moeen Ali has been our second best batsman this series, averaging 38, he isn’t a strike bowler at the moment, far from it.

We can’t go into a Test against Pakistan with Ali as our spinner, it won’t work.

Then there’s the position of opener alongside Cook and wicketkeeper.

Adam Lyth has struggled and is lucky that there’s nobody really banging on the door to take his place.

He’s almost been afforded as much time as the handful of openers he followed into the side – whether or not that will continue is yet to be seen.

Jos Buttler seems to have avoided coming under the microscope despite a poor series with the bat.

I’d be tempted to bring in Adil Rashid for Buttler at The Oval, what do the selectors have to lose?

I’m not saying Buttler should be dropped altogether, but we need to explore other options, especially in the spin department.

I’d stick with Lyth, for the time being anyway.

Having said that, the former Scarborough man needs runs, and quickly, before he faces the chop.