Image courtesy of: Zimbio
England batsman Gary Ballance will miss the third Test against South Africa after fracturing his left index finger.
Ballance sustained the injury when he was struck on the hand by a short ball from South Africa seamer Morne Morkel on the fourth day of the second Test at Trent Bridge.
The 27-year-old underwent an x-ray on Monday night, which confirmed the fracture, and then proceeded to visit a hand surgeon in Leeds on Tuesday evening.
Despite the injury, England’s medical team believe that Ballance could recover in time for the fourth Test at Old Trafford on August 4.
In the two Tests that have been played thus far, Ballance has struggled to have an impact as he has scored 85 runs at an average of 21.25.
With Ballance having been ruled out of the third Test, England head coach Trevor Bayliss revealed that Surrey’s Mark Stoneman or Essex’s Tom Westley are the two frontrunners to replace him.
Bayliss, however, admitted that he doesn’t like to chop and change too much, especially as many batsmen have come and gone in England’s top order.
“Since Andrew Strauss, I’ve forgotten how many guys have played at the top of the order,” he said. “All of those guys have been picked because they’ve done well in county cricket.
“They’ve then probably started off well in Test cricket and then fallen away a little. So that’s a concern, obviously.
“But one of the things we’ve tried to do since I’ve come in is give those guys a bit longer to show what they have. It still hasn’t worked, to be honest. But if we’re consistent with our selections Jennings, at the top of the order, should get some more goes.
“The last selection meeting we had before this series started, players like Stoneman and Westley were spoken about at length. Obviously, Haseeb Hameed, too, but he is a little out of form this year. So those guys, they are on the edge.”
Even though England lost the second Test by 340 runs after imploding to be bowled out for 133 in their second innings, Bayliss insisted that there was no need to bolster the batting line-up by bringing in another batsman.
Not only does the idea of eight batsmen sound ludicrous to Bayliss, but he also admitted that all-rounder Moeen Ali would be frustrated at being pushed further down the order.
“The one I’d be concerned about the most is Moeen,” Bayliss said. “As a batter, I’d be upset having to bat No.8.
“It’s almost a waste having eight batters in the team. We played that way against Australia and were successful because Moeen, as a batter at No.8, scored a few runs.
“But in a way, that’s papering over the cracks a little. It’s saying we’re not confident with our batting line-up. The simple fact is we’ve got to do better with the bat.”
When asked if being overly aggressive was the reason why England were defeated at Trent Bridge, Bayliss said: “If you look at the top seven, we had five blokes out blocking.”
However, the 54-year-old conceded that he is concerned about England’s inconsistency, especially as they dominated the Proteas in their 211-run win in the first Test at Lord’s.
“If you look back over the couple of years I’ve been here, we’ve won one well and then lost one well,” he said. “It is a concern.
“I put the questions to the team: if we win a game, does our mindset change? So we approach the next game differently? It’s only them that will be able to say as a group or as individuals. But we’ll go away over the next few days and when we get together again I’m sure we’ll sit down and have another discussion about it.
“The white ball team is a lot more lot more settled. In fact we have other guys who could quite easily be in the team. It’s not quite like that in the red ball team. There are still a number of guys trying to cement a spot, which always creates a little bit of pressure.
“The one thing we have – and we certainly admit – is that whether you’re an attacking style player or a defensive type player, we’ve got to do it better. Definitely.”
England and South Africa are tied at 1-1 going into the third Test, which begins on July 27.