Within a fortnight, England batsmen would have got a feel of how cruel the game is. Just a few days ago, there were drawing praise from all over for their good show in the first Test against South Africa at Lord’s which England won by a massive margin of 211 runs and within a week of that match, they are being criticised severely for their batting.
In fact, Joe Root & Co. are being criticised for their approach in the ongoing second Test at Trent Bridge. In reply to South Africa’s first innings total of 335, none of the English batsmen tried to apply themselves on a pacer friendly wicket as they tried to negate the threat by adopting a cautions approach. England skipper and their batting mainstay Joe Root’s uncharacteristic innings of 78 runs off just 76 balls was a testament to it. The move, nevertheless, backfired as the hosts were bowled out for just 205, conceding a huge lead of 130 runs.
South Africa, meanwhile, have batted themselves into a commanding position by scoring 343 for 9 (declared) in the second innings, leaving England to chase down an improbable 475. At the end of third day’s play, the Three Lions were 1 for no loss in four overs with openers Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings yet to get off the mark.
Speaking after the day’s play, England’s batting coach Mark Ramprakash rued the meteoric rise of T20 cricket which he feels has contributed in the batsmen’s changed mindset that has barred them from excelling in the longest format of the game.
“With T20 being prevalent, a higher percentage of the batters we are seeing come through are gravitating to the white-ball game,” Ramprakash said. “There are not as many of your tried-and-tested county openers. Look at the number of four-day games coming down in division one this year.
“The fact is that batting in the top order for England in home Test matches is not straightforward. It’s just not. And top-order players play half their games in England. A couple of years ago, we saw Australia bowled out for 60. The ball didn’t move all over the place. And in that same Ashes series, they chose to bat at Edgbaston and were bowled out for 130.”
“When the ball does a little bit, you have to show due care and attention. But perhaps because there’s a mix of one-day cricket and four-day cricket and the players want to be a bit more proactive.
It is not easy to bed in players at this level when the ball nips around with overcast skies. It is not easy to get them settled and confident,” he added.
But at the same time, the batting coach came out in defence of his team, stating that the Joe Root-led side is yet to become a ‘finished article’ as he urged patience for the team.
“I don’t think anyone is saying this England side is the finished article,” he said. “Clearly, we’re still trying to bed in players at two and three. We accept that. That’s been the case for a while.
“The other thing is that expectations have risen because of the talent. The innings we’ve seen Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali play – we know they’ve played some sublime innings – and our expectations have probably gone up because of that. They’ve often played in that highly aggressive, attacking manner, which is the way they think is best.
“But if you look at Ben Stokes’s fifty at Lord’s, I thought he played really well, in an orthodox fashion. So they’re learning as they go along. You have to take the rough with the smooth. Sometimes you’ll see wonderful performances like we did in Cape Town and other times they might get it wrong,” he added.
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