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Ken Borland


Four potentially key areas of weakness in the England XI

Posted on September 30, 2022 by Ken

England have already named their starting XI for the first Test against South Africa at Lord’s on Wednesday, with Ben Foakes taking the wicketkeeper’s gloves from Sam Billings in the only change to the team that beat India last month.

Here are four potential key areas of weakness that the Proteas will be looking to exploit.

Making early inroads

South Africa will want their fearsome pace attack to make early inroads and therefore expose England’s powerful middle-order of Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes when the ball is still new.

Opener Zak Crawley is famous for the 267 he scored against Pakistan in Southampton two years ago, but in his other 45 Test innings he has made only 962 runs at an average of just 21.37. This year he has made just 142 runs in eight innings and, although he is a dashing strokeplayer, his place in the team is precarious. For all his considerable talent, he has a first-class average of just 29.62.

Shopping for top-order stability

England have been shopping for a settled opening combination and even a consistent No.3 for the last decade. Alex Lees is currently Crawley’s partner but he averages just 25.50 in his seven Tests, while Ollie Pope also averages less than 30 in Test cricket, although he has played a couple of brilliant innings this summer.

But England’s batting is on shaky foundations and the Proteas will want to get stuck in with the new ball.

Soft centre?

Apart from the problems at the top of the order, there are question marks lower down too. Wicketkeeper/batsman Ben Foakes is in the centre of the discussion because he comes in at No.7, with a longish tail after him. Foakes has scored just one century and two fifties in his 27 Test innings, averaging 29.19. His ability to marshall Broad, Leach, Potts and Anderson could be central to England’s hopes if things go awry with the batting up top.

An innocuous spinner

There’s no doubt left-arm spinner Jack Leach has tremendous character and he offers great control to the attack, as well as bounce being his greatest weapon due to his six-foot frame. But he is not a big turner of the ball and there is not much mystery to what he does. In comparison to Keshav Maharaj and Simon Harmer, the Proteas would seem to have a clear edge in the spin-bowling department.

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