Joe Denly looks set to pay the price for England’s four-wicket defeat in the first Test against West Indies, but Jos Buttler can expect to be given “the best chance to succeed” despite his own flat-lining Test form, as the head coach Chris Silverwood prepares to lift his squad ahead of Thursday’s second match at Emirates Old Trafford.
With England’s captain Joe Root set to slot back into the side at No. 4 following the birth of his second child, the obvious fall-guy is Denly, 34, who once again failed to capitalise on a pair of solid starts with scores of 18 and 29 at the Ageas Bowl.
After 15 Tests in a row dating back to England’s tour of the Caribbean in early 2019, those latest innings epitomise a flatlining career in which Denly’s average has now slipped back below 30. Moreover they contrast increasingly starkly with the efforts of Denly’s Kent team-mate Zak Crawley – 12 years his junior – whose second-innings 76 at the Ageas Bowl completed the fifth consecutive match in which he has posted a Test-best score.
“That’s what we are looking for,” Silverwood said. “If we can create an environment where these guys can learn and continually improve then we will end up with some very good cricketers on our hands.
“Zak is improving constantly. He certainly showed maturity and the innings he played was very good. We have some young players in that side that seem to have good heads on their shoulders, and he’s one of them. We’d have all loved to have seen him go on and get up to three figures but what we did was very good and helped us get into the position that we did.”
After debuting at No. 6 in New Zealand and playing as an opener in South Africa, Crawley’s selection at No. 4 was a sign that he had been the likelier player to make way for Root’s return in that position in Manchester.
However, when pressed on Denly’s continued presence in the side, Silverwood struggled to give his player much solace, and confirmed that his place would come under discussion when he and Root sit down with Ed Smith, the national selector, this afternoon to finalise England’s squad for the second Test.
“We’re all desperate to see Joe do really well,” he said. “We can see he’s trying hard, he’s training hard. He’s a great bloke hence why we all went to see him do well, but obviously he’s under pressure a little bit, yeah.”
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Another player who might expect to feel the pinch is Buttler, England’s vice-captain in Root’s absence, whose scores of 35 and 9 at the Ageas Bowl continued a fallow run of form in which he has scored a solitary half-century in his last 21 Test innings, going back to the tour of the Caribbean.
With Ben Foakes now confirmed as the Test squad’s wicketkeeping understudy following Jonny Bairstow’s selection in the white-ball squad to face Ireland at the end of the month, Buttler would appear to be running out of opportunities to translate his world-beating one-day form into the Test arena, where he averages…