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Who will be England's No. 3?

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England_wales_cricket_board_logoAs bad as I feel for Nick Compton, nearly every dismissal of his in this series has been brutally predictable, to say the least.

Technique-wise, he's just about fine. Okay, maybe a trigger movement or two augurs well when batting in England, but overall, you can't find much fault with his stance or head position.

All the same, he has been making two basic errors. One, he's playing at balls he shouldn't be playing. Second, he's committing on the front-foot a touch too late. These are the sort of crimes you can't make coming one down - leave alone in England.

I suspect his repeated failures have more to do with his current mental makeup, because we’re talking about a domestic veteran who has amassed over 10,000 runs at 42 with the same technique in First-class cricket. The same bloke scored two hundreds on the bounce versus a seriously good Kiwi attack in their own backyard.

Thus, those errors have more to do with what's going on in his head. Every time he walked out from the pavilion, he seemed intensely conscious of all the scrutiny he was being subjected to and therefore, was incredibly desperate to get a score. Not to be.

Moreover, caught between being the grafter that he is and the entertainer that he aims and others want him to be, he managed to achieve neither. Post the failure in Headingley, he talked about playing the kind of cricket which gets ‘bums on seats.’

 

“I know deep inside me there’s a player in here who could change all those opinions very quickly, but unfortunately until you do it and people see it in real life there’s no point in me saying anything else.” - Compton said when queried whether he could up his scoring-rate.

He wasn't the ideal No 3 candidate coming into the series, having had an unimpressive tour of South Africa (averaging a little over 35) followed by an unbountiful county stint where he scored 100 runs at 20. Tom Westley, Cook’s teammate at Essex, was ahead in the race with 622 FC runs in this year even before the selectors met to pick the side to face Sri Lanka.

For someone who has played all his life at Lord’s, and being aware of the adjustments that the slope demands, the shots that Compo played to get out were near-unforgiving.

Compton’s no-show means that speculation for his replacement once again gathers steam, with a stack of permutations and combinations put forth.

One of Scott Borthwick (Durham), Tom Westley (Essex) and Daniel Bell-Drummond (Kent) will be the new No. 3 come the Pakistan Tests - with Borthwick being the frontrunner. An alternative course of action would be to move Vince up to 3 and have Buttler back behind the stumps. Either move is sound.

Borthwick’s story has been akin to Aussie skipper Steve Smith’s. He arrived onto the scene as a perfect T20 blend - a leg-spinner who could smack the ball down the order.

He debuted against Australia in the final Test of the ignominious 0-5 whitewash series as a leggie (picking up 4 wickets in that game), but has since redeveloped into a proper batter who offers the extra spinning option.

England ought to take full advantage of his cracking form – he has slammed three tons in his last five innings. Currently, he stands fourth among the top run scorers in division one - with 574 runs at 82. His style of play aligns well with Trevor Bayliss’ idea of positive batsmanship. Borthwick’s unbeaten 188 against Nottinghamshire came at a strike rate of over 67.

And since these runs have come in first-division, he’s got an added advantage over Tom Westley, whose figures are equally if not more ludicrous, but the class of attacks he has been facing might, unfortunately, count against him.

The other route, as mentioned above, is to have Vince at 3 and reintroduce Buttler in the wicket-keeping role. Buttler is in good touch and will further strengthen the already strong lower-middle order which will see Ben Stokes coming back soon. What it also does is relieve the flowing Jonny Bairstow from the extra load that keeping wickets brings with it.

While the Pakistani bats will almost certainly be preyed upon by the pair of Jimmy and Stuey, their bowlers, led by the returning Mohammad Amir, will incisively test the unsettled England batting. A 4-0 romping of the visitors, as many pundits predict, might not materialise with ease.

 

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