Prior to the start of the series, England evidently had few issues to be addressed in their batting that too in the absence of Ben Stokes. But the young guns did show good intent in the warm-up games and built immense hope. Still, there was a concern related to their conversion rate. Most of their batsmen floundered after getting emphatic starts, which is criminal at this level. One just can’t afford to let it go after being well set and used to the conditions.
Most of the English batsmen got good starts in the warm-up games, but there was a dearth of centuries. England coach Trevor Bayliss clearly stated that sixties are not going to be enough, and they need 160. His words stand true as many English batsmen have been letting it go after solid starts and have failed to convert.
Before the start of the series, Bayliss said, “Sixties aren’t enough. We need 160s. Batting collapses have been a concern for us for a little while. We have games like that, where we lose wickets like that, and it is a concern. The batsmen realise they have got to do better and they are working hard to do that.”
A Test match demands daddy hundreds; a team can’t expect to have a firm hold if their batsmen failed to get big scores under their belt. Big hundreds also have a psychological factor on the opponent and boost the team’s morale. For instance, Steve Smith’s hundred lifted his side at Brisbane. Most of the English players namely Mark Stoneman, Joe Root, Moeen Ali and James Vince have been fizzling out after good starts.
It was expected that England’s dearth of centuries would be resurrected in the series, but it wasn’t to be, at least not in the first two games of the series. And England did pay a hefty price for it. Coming to Perth, England were already under fire with Australia leading the series 2-0.
For the first time in the series, England crossed the 400-run mark when two of their batsmen scored centuries. Most importantly, they transferred the pressure back to Australia. Dawid Malan was the first English man on this tour to have scored a ton in this series, which was rightly followed by Jonny Bairstow, whose promotion to No.6 worked wonders for England. This is the kind of impact and effect a century can make to the side.
In cricket, conversion is an art just like batting or bowling. A batsman needs to have the hunger to score more, to garner more runs. Something which Virat Kohli, Steve Smith exhibits prolifically. They put a huge price tag on their wicket and look to achieve one milestone after having achieved the other. Converting a 50 into 100 and a 100 into double hundred is the need of the hour for England and they have seen some promise coming in Malan and Bairstow.
Stoneman has played five innings so far, without any ton. He looked promising every time he walked out to bat, and got decent starts too. He was never dismissed for a single digit score and crossed the 50-run mark on a couple of occasions. But is he doing enough at the top with a misfiring Alastair Cook at the other end?
Stoneman played an innings of substance at Perth, scoring a tenacious 56, but it’s high time when he converts into big scores. His average of 38 in the series might look healthy, but the fact that his highest score is just 56 speaks about the lack of conversion.
If truth be told, Root has also not lived up to the expectations. He is the spine of this English batting and needs to score those daddy hundreds. At Perth, he looked in a brilliant touch but threw it away after scoring 20. At Brisbane, he was out after scoring 51, but his fall on 67 at Adelaide ended England’s chances of chasing down the target. Although, Australia have been unstoppable with the ball, but that just can’t be an excuse after getting such starts.
Talking about conversion, batsmen like Vince and Ali have been following similar footsteps in the series so far. Vince had an opportunity to make it big in Brisbane but was unfortunate to have been run out on 83. His next four innings read – 2, 2, 15, 25. The fact that England’s top four has not scored a single century yet have hampered their run so far.
Starting with Brisbane, Ali’s scores read: 38, 40, 25, 2, 0. He has been a useful contributor in the lower middle-order, but his failure to not make it big is not helping England’s cause. To be precise, Malan was on a similar path, but seemed to have pulled up on time. He too was squandering golden opportunities after solid starts, but did well to script his maiden ton in a much-needed situation.
England desperately need a win or at least a draw at Perth to keep the series alive and their hopes of retaining the Urn. And to do so, their batting has to get going and peak now. Conversion is what they should be looking at, as picking 20 wickets will always win you a Test, but runs do need to come and in plenty.