How Good is England’s Current Batting Line Up?

A lot has been said about the promise of England’s batting line-up. With the likes of Dom Sibley, Ollie Pope, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran and Dan Lawrence all under the age of 25, there is a deep pool of talent for England’s selectors to pick from. But, while there are clear green shoots, questions marks have been raised as to the stability of England’s batting. After another England collapse on day 1 of the opening test on Wednesday, we asked: just how good is England’s present raft of batters? In order to do this, we have delved into the stats from ESPNcricinfo to compare England’s current batting lineup to the side that became the top-ranked test side in 2011, a title they held until 2012.

  • Alastair Cook’s average of 84.27 as an opener in 2011 far overshadows Rory Burns’ 43.98 and Dom Sibley’s 21.35
  • Joe Root is the only English batsman with an average above 50 for 2021 (55.65). England in 2011 had six players with averages above 50 (Cook, Bell, Pietersen, Bopara, Prior and Bresnan).
  • England have only scored 16 centuries since the start of the last Ashes series in August 2019. Between November 2010 and November 2012, England scored 30 centuries. 
  • There have only been three double centuries scored by English batsmen in the last two years, all of them by Joe Root. 
  • England have failed to see three batsmen score centuries in the same innings for two years. Between Nov 2010 and Nov 2012, England recorded this feat three times. 
Player 2011 Average 2011 Player 2021 Average 2021 (Before Wednesday) % Increase/Decrease
Andrew Strauss 28.72 Rory Burns 43.98 +53%
Alastair Cook 84.27 Dom Sibley 21.35  -75%
Ian Bell 118.75 Zak Crawley 10.25 -91%
Kevin Pietersen  73.10 Joe Root 55.68 -24%
Eion Morgan 40.22 Jonny Bairstow  23.85 -41%
Ravi Bopara 51.00 Dan Lawrence  29.90 -41%
Matt Prior 64.87 Jos Buttler 46.25 -29%
Tim Bresnan 63.00 Sam Curran  6.25 -90%
Stuart Broad 39.83 Ollie Robinson  42.00* +5%
Graeme Swann 23.75 Stuart Broad 6.2 -74%
Jimmy Anderson 13.75 Jimmy Anderson  7.00 -49%

*After one test

If we compare the batting averages of both sides, the differences between the two are stark. Opening Alastair Cook finished 2011 with an average of 84.27 before ending 2012 on a smaller but no less impressive 48.03. England’s current go-to opening pair, Rory Burns and Dom Sibley, boast more modest numbers, however. Burns has proven his worth as an opener in recent tests and carries a solid 43.98 for 2021, a number that has only dropped by 10 runs across the last four years. But Sibley’s 21.35 for 2021, 47.3 for 2020 and 14.2 for 2019 is evidence of a batsman seriously struggling for form. 

Once the opening two fall, that’s when the rest of the lineup are expected to deliver, and England’s side of 2011 did so with frightening consistency. Five of England’s remaining six batsmen finished 2011 with averages above 50, with Ian Bell’s 118.75 and Kevin Pietersen’s 73.1 being the most impressive from that calendar year. Compared to England’s current crop of batsmen, it is clear that the same level of protection lower down the order is not being offered. Joe Root is the only player in the 17-man squad for this summer’s tests against India with an average above 50 (55.65) for 2021. The likes of Johnny Bairstow and Ollie Pope barely make it out of the 20s, while likely number three, Zak Crawley, is currently operating on 10.25. Jos Buttler’s 46.25 is perhaps the only glimmer of hope. 

One of England’s biggest failings in recent times has been their batsmen’s inability to consistently convert their totals into three-figure scores. There have only been 16 English centuries since England kicked off their Ashes campaign with a defeat at Edgebaston almost two years to the day. What’s more, a quarter of those tonnes have been scored by the now absent Ben Stokes who announced he would be taking a break from all forms of cricket indefinitely. 

Compared to the English greats of 2011, the differences couldn’t be more striking. In a similar two year timeframe — we’ve chosen the two years from the start of England’s 3-1 Ashes win down under in 2010/11 to the start of their tour of India in November 2012 — there were 30 English centuries from just 24 test matches. There were also twice as many double centuries with Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell racking up six double hundreds between them across the 24 month period. 200+ scores have only been registered three times by the current England squad over the last two years, however, with all of them recorded by Joe Root alone. 

England’s reliance on their talismanic captain in recent years has been symptomatic of a team struggling for identity despite a huge wealth of talent within its ranks. There is no better example of this than the limited number of same-innings hundreds the current crop of English batters can boast from the last two years. Since the start of Australia’s tour of England in 2019, there have just been four occasions where multiple centuries were scored by English batsmen in the same innings. In fact, the last time it happened was nearly a year ago when Zak Crawley’s imperious 267 and Jos Buttler’s battling 152 helped earn England a 1-0 series win over Pakistan. 

During England’s golden decade, there was very little reliance on one single player to score the majority of the team’s runs as there were six instances when multiple English batsmen scored hundreds in the same innings. In fact, so good was England’s batting talent at the time, three batsmen scored hundreds in the same innings on three of the six occasions — a feat not repeated once by the current crop of players.

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