Trevor Bayliss says that having an unchanged squad for next week’s third Test with Sri Lanka will assist those struggling for form, with Nick Compton and Steven Finn two such players in an otherwise buoyant England team.
With an unassailable 2-0 series lead secured by Monday’s nine-wicket win at Chester-le-Street, the third instalment at Lord’s now represents a dead-rubber finale – unless the all-encompassing Super Series is your thing – that could have provided the head coach and his captain, Alastair Cook, with an opportunity to experiment. But while the uncapped Jake Ball, England’s spare seamer in the 12, will continue to push hard for selection as Finn, by his own admission, struggles for rhythm, Compton is assured of another chance to address a lean start to the first-class summer that has brought a top score of 44 and an average of 18.71.
The No3, who like Finn plays his county cricket for Middlesex at Lord’s, was caught hooking for nine in England’s first innings in Durham but went on to hit the winning runs in an unbeaten 22. Bayliss, whose preference is to give struggling players one match too many, drew encouragement from this cameo, even if it remains clear that Compton is in need of an immediate spike in his returns.
“The team has been a winning team so there is no reason to change it just at the moment,” said Bayliss. “We wanted to let people know the squad nice and early so they can prepare for the next match.”
On Compton’s form he added: “It would be a concern for him that obviously he’s not scoring as many runs as he would like. Whenever anyone’s out of form with the bat or the ball there’s always that little bit of a worry, more from their personal point of view.
“But I thought in a short second innings he handled it pretty well and he looked like he hit the ball in the middle of the bat. Next week’s Test is on his home ground so we all want him to score runs and be a part of this team going forward.”
Bayliss admits he has seen few of the top-order alternatives in county cricket, because of an early-season break in his native Australia, but reeled off a list of names being discussed by the selectors that included Scott Borthwick and Mark Stoneman of Durham, the Middlesex opener Sam Robson, Essex No3 Tom Westley and Daniel Bell-Drummond of Kent.
If the onus is on Compton to keep this chasing pack at bay, then Finn is a player wrestling with himself, having so far displayed little of the rhythm shown during an explosive comeback to Test cricket last year during the series wins over Australia and South Africa.
With Jimmy Anderson, who on Tuesday became the world’s No1-ranked Test bowler, taking 18 wickets at fewer than eight runs apiece this series, and Stuart Broad, who has now dropped from first to third, picking up 10 at 18.9, Finn’s shortcomings have not caused too great a headache. Bayliss is tipping a resurgence soon. He said: “I don’t think there’s any one thing you can tell anyone who’s out of form or rhythm. It’s about giving them as much support and encouragement as possible.”
While rest has largely been prescribed after back-to-back Tests, four members of the squad have been released to play in the NatWest T20 Blast. Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow are free to play for Yorkshire against Lancashire and Chris Woakes available for Birmingham Bears versus Durham Jets. In addition Ball is clear to play for Nottinghamshire from now until Monday’s Royal London Cup match at home to Northamptonshire.
Sri Lanka’s problems continued on Tuesday with the seamer Shaminda Eranga being reported for a suspect bowling action, requiring him to undergo official testing within 14 days. The right-armer would be free to play at Lord’s in the meantime, even if he has struggled so far in the series with one wicket for 172 runs.
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