‘Ballance & Jennings have Test futures’

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Pint-sized TMS: South Africa sparkle as England crumble

Gary Ballance and Keaton Jennings have a future in the England Test team if they are handled better, says former captain Michael Vaughan.

The two left-handers have struggled for runs in England’s opening two Tests of the summer.

Vaughan, however, believes England are doing Ballance a “disservice” by batting him at three.

“He can have a Test career, but it should be at number five,” Vaughan told BBC Radio 5 live.

“They’re doing the lad a disservice. It’s unfair on a player who struggled the last time he was batting at number three.

“He goes back to Yorkshire and scores a barrel of runs at four and five, plays for the Lions at number four, then at the first Test he is thrown back in at three. It’s wrong.”

Philander bowls Jennings in his first over of the day

England suffered yet another collapse against South Africa at Trent Bridge – falling from 72-3 to 133 all out in their second innings to conclude a 340-run defeat.

There were a number of failures, leading to calls for changes in England’s batting line-up.

Opener Jennings, like Ballance, enjoyed almost instant success in Test cricket when he scored a century on his debut in India.

Since then, however, he averages just 36 in the County Championship for second division Durham while he has made only one double-figure score in four Test innings against South Africa.

“I certainly don’t want to see a young kid who has only played four Test matches put on to the scrap heap,” said Vaughan.

“Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel are the best combination to face at the moment in Test cricket, so it’s not easy.

“I think he’s got talent; it’s now a mental challenge – how does he go from getting some praise in India to people now questioning whether he should be in the side?”

Vaughan believes England should strengthen their batting by dropping Hampshire’s Liam Dawson, who was picked as England’s number one spinner for the second Test, despite Moeen Ali taking 10 wickets in the series opener at Lord’s.

Dawson has struggled with the bat against the Proteas – making scores of 0, 0, 13 and 5 not out – while his bowling is yet to fully convince.

“They got it wrong with Liam Dawson,” said Vaughan. “He looks a real good kid with a lot of character, but his game doesn’t look quite suited to Test match cricket.

“It’s silly he is bowling before Moeen, who is a better bowler.

“I’d like to see Ballance move to five, Bairstow at six, Stokes at seven and Moeen at eight. I want to see a long batting line-up with different styles of batting at different positions.

“Ballance at five breaks up the crack-a-jack stroke players. If you need an extra bit of spin then Root would have to bowl a bit.”

The contenders

If England do as Vaughan believes they should and drop Dawson while shuffling everyone down a spot, it creates a vacancy in the batting line-up.

But who from county cricket should get the nod?

BBC Sport asked those in the know – our local radio commentators – to pick out who they consider worthy of an England call-up.

Ben Foakes (Surrey)

2017 first-class record: 269 runs at an average of 29.88

BBC Radio London’s Mark Church: “If they were to change it, I would ask Jonny Bairstow to bat at three and give the gloves to Ben Foakes.

“After Root, Bairstow is England’s best batsman and should be batting three.

“Foakes is a quality keeper and he would certainly not be worried about batting seven in a Test match. He is the sort of player that gets better the higher the standard he plays and I think he would thrive in the Test match environment.”

Sam Northeast (Kent)

2017 first-class record: 671 runs at an average of 47.92

BBC Radio Kent’s Matt Cole: “The Kent skipper has scored more than 2,000 runs in all competitions for the last two seasons, including three scores of 150+ in 2016.

“Although he’s not hit those heights yet this campaign, he’s already hit one ‘daddy’ hundred in the Championship.

“He’s comfortable batting anywhere in the top six, hit a ton in the North v South series and has the tactical nous to be the perfect sounding board for Joe Root’s fledgling captaincy.”

Sam Robson (Middlesex)

2017 first-class record: 534 runs at 59.33

BBC London’s Kevin Hand: “Last season marked a return to form for Robson, who in 2015 looked like he was suffering a hangover from being dropped by England.

“The right-handed opener has started this season in great form again with an average of 60 and two centuries and two fifties in nine innings, resulting in a Lions call-up.

“His initial selection was in part to see off the advances of the country of his birth Australia and maybe came too soon.

“Robson looks in the form of his life and will have developed as a player and a person since his Test debut in 2014. He could also offer a right-hand/left-hand partnership with Cook if Jennings is dropped to three.”

Mark Stoneman (Surrey)

2017 first-class record: 761 runs at 58.53

BBC Newcastle’s Martin Emmerson: “Mark Stoneman left Durham at the end of last season because he wanted to try to improve his chances of playing for England by joining Surrey.

“He’s certainly had a good season so far and could end up replacing Keaton Jennings, the man he used to open the batting with at Durham. Many were surprised to see Jennings have such a phenomenal season last year, having been dropped by Durham midway through the previous season.

“Stoneman was the player people thought of as a possible England candidate well ahead of Jennings.”

Tom Westley (Essex)

2017 first-class record: 478 runs at an average of 53.11

BBC Essex’s Glenn Speller: “Westley has scored runs consistently over the past three years.

“The accusation was he hadn’t done it in Division One. Well he did it for the Second Division champions last season and is scoring runs for the Championship leaders this year.

“A century for the Lions earlier this summer should also strengthen his hand.”

And finally…

Lancashire’s Haseeb Hameed is averaging just 19.45 in the County Championship this season

Remember this fella? Lancashire’s Haseeb Hameed has struggled for runs this season, after making his Test debut in India last winter, but he’s still at the forefront of our readers’ minds.

We asked readers of our live text commentary who should bat at number three for England at The Oval.

He polled 30% of the vote, ahead of Stoneman (23%), Middlesex’s Dawid Malan (12%) and current incumbent Ballance (12%).

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