Adam Lyth had a poor Ashes by any standard. 115 runs in 9 attempts with no 50s is comprehensive failure to reward the trust shown in him by the England selectors. So surely he should now be consigned to the same dustbin of history where you can see the corpses of Sam Robson, Michael Carberry, Nick Compton and some dude called Joe Root?
Not so fast.
All batsmen have struggled to get a start at some time Every batsman is vulnerable when they first go in, so all batsmen have occasions where they get out early in their innings. These poor starts will sometimes group together because that’s the nature of random events.
A good batsman will make the best of his starts The batsman you don’t want is the one who gets out after he’s got himself in. Let’s look at what Lyth has done when he’s faced more than 3 overs:
- New Zealand, 2nd test (Headingley): 107 runs before being cruelly run out by Gary Ballance
- Australia, 1st test (Cardiff): 37 runs, miraculous catch by Clarke at slip
- Australia, 3rd test (Edgbaston): 1st inns, 10 runs, standard Lyth dismissal in the slips
- Australia, 3rd test (Edgbaston): 2nd inns, 12 runs, LBW Hazlewood
- Australia, 4th test (Trent Bridge): 14 runs, standard Lyth dismissal
- Australia, 5th test (Oval): 1st inns, 19 runs, terrible pull shot off Siddle
- Australia, 5th test (Oval): 2nd inns, 10 runs, standard Lyth dismissal
So as the pressure mounted after his early bad luck, Lyth tended to get out to his usual faults outside the off stump even when he’d got a start. The problem now is how to manage that pressure as well as correct the technical fault that leads him to play at balls he could leave.
Lyth’s strike rate declined as the summer progressed. This mirrors Michael Carberry’s experience in Australia where he arrived in an aggressive mood and became effectively shotless as the tests went on. It’s a response to pressure: not getting out becomes the driving force rather than scoring when the opportunity presents itself.
So who else can partner Cook? Ah.
This is Lyth’s biggest asset at the moment: the lack of alternatives. None of Cook’s previous partners have scored heavily since being dumped. Carberry has come back into some form recently, Compton is showing signs of resurrection, but neither is demanding their place back.
Who else is on the selectors’ radar? Alex Hales is a dominating opener in the shorter forms of the game who has recently scored runs in red ball cricket too. He deserves a chance but his first-class record is not nearly as good as Lyth’s so there’s no reason to think he’d do any better. Mark Stoneman has been mentioned but his record is not outstanding either.
Make do and mend What about a makeshift opener? Moeen Ali or James Taylor. Or put Joe Root back there? No. Test matches are not the right place for jury-rigged team structures. Except perhaps for the series against Pakistan in the UAE where Moeen Ali could do a temporary job, England needs a high quality specialist opener with a good track record in first class cricket.
England needs Adam Lyth.