Taylor showed some promising signs during his debut
England coach Andy Flower is hoping that the troublesome number six batting spot can be filled by James Taylor for a long time to come, but noted that Ravi Bopara will get a chance to regain it after resolving his personal problems that caused him to pull out of the second and final Test against South Africa.
Bopara was rather unimpressive in the crushing innings defeat at The Oval, making scores of 0 and 22, but was still on the roster for the second Test at Leeds since he was the best number six batsman England had.
However, before the Test at Leed started, Bopara informed the team management that he would not be available to play due to personal reasons, and this paved the way for James Taylor to make his England debut during the second Test, in which he scored 34 runs in the first innings but did not bat in the second as England managed to secure a draw.
Taylor is the fifth number six batsman England have tried after Paul Collingwood retired, with the previous five failing to hang on to the position for a long period of time.
Eoin Morgan was the first batsman to fill the number six spot, and started off in great fashion by scoring plenty of runs, but after a poor series against Pakistan, he paid the ultimate price and was dropped from the squad.
Wicketkeeper Matt Prior was moved into the number six slot and Samit Patel came in at seventh, but after that didn’t work out, Jonny Bairstow filled the position and failed to make an impact as he struggled in the recent series against the West Indies.
With Bairstow dropped, the path was cleared for Bopara to make his return.
“It’s disappointing for him obviously but it opens the door for another player who has come through the academy system and worked really hard over the years to get his chance, I certainly hope James can make six his spot for a while. I don’t know him that well. We’ve had him down for the odd net and he’s worked with Graham Gooch. I watched him play against Sri Lanka at Derby last year. He looks like a young man that understands his game pretty well and he knows how to score runs. We don’t know how he’ll do but we wish him well and hope he has a wonderful international career. It doesn’t close the door on Ravi Bopara,” Flower said.
Flower now has an exceedingly difficult task of helping England beat South Africa in the final Test at Lord’s and retain their world number one Test team ranking, and it was made even more difficult after Kevin Pietersen was dropped for sending derogatory text messages about captain Andrew Strauss and Flower to some of the South African players.
England’s bowlers have seriously struggled to trouble the South African batsmen, especially Graeme Swann, who has been dealing with a long-standing elbow injury, which has resulted in him taking only six wickets in the entire season at an average of 72.16.
“Okay… He has a chronic problem but it’s improving,” Flower said when asked about how Swann’s elbow was doing.
However, even after drawing the second Test at Leeds, some of the England players such as Swann and pace bowler James Anderson, when recalling the thrashing they received at The Oval, admitted that the team have still not fully adapted to knowing what its like to be the top Test team in the world.
But, Flower does not quite agree with the mindset of Anderson and Swann, and said: “I wouldn’t describe our results as being dismal, I think you have to look a little deeper than that. The series in the UAE was in different conditions and we struggled against their two spinners. You can’t compare that to the first Test against South Africa. South Africa played very good cricket, we played some good cricket in parts but we didn’t capitalise on a great platform in the first innings. On a pitch like that you need a significant score. South Africa bowled well that second morning and that was where the momentum of that game changed.”
Flower also noted that just because England were the number one Test team, it doesn’t mean that they will always have a perfect game.
“Sometimes you are outplayed, regardless of your attempts at dismissal or strategy implemented, so you have to give credit to the opposition, it would be very hard for me to argue our strategies were successful. But in international sport you’ll have huge ups and downs, and our make-up has to deal with those ups and downs,” Flower added.