Bayliss ponders top-order options for Ashes

10 September 2017 07:24

England coach Trevor Bayliss has revealed Ashes places are still up for grabs with a new generation of top-order batsmen yet to nail down their places.

Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley and Dawid Malan played their part in the series victory over the West Indies, which was clinched by a nine-wicket win inside three days at Lord's on Saturday, but questions remain over their readiness to face Australia in their own backyard.

However, Bayliss has indicated they remain in pole position, although the likes of Alex Hales, Keaton Jennings, Haseeb Hameed and Gary Ballance should not give up hope just yet.

He said: "That's the big question, whether the three guys we have been speaking about all summer have done enough.

"They have shown they are good enough. But are they good enough for long enough? Are they tough enough, especially for an Ashes series?

"We will be discussing other players we have had in the team over the last 12-18 months. They will get a hearing, but it will be hard to go past these three guys."

Asked if the batting line-up for the Ashes tour had been decided, Bayliss replied: "Not 100 per cent, but I am sure when we sit down in a week or two to discuss that squad, we will be talking about batters that have played for us in the last 12 to 18 months.

"There are another two or three county matches to play, and that will be a factor too.

"I think our opposition in the Ashes is far from stable either."

Westley and Stoneman are among a group of players who will now link up with their counties, but Alastair Cook and bowler Jimmy Anderson will take a break while Stuart Broad is to undergo a scan on the heel injury which hampered him during the third and final Test.

The search for a long-term partner for opener Cook as well as numbers three and five remain priorities, but Bayliss is convinced the right candidate for at least one of those positions is already firmly on board in the shape of skipper Joe Root.

He said: "I would always have him at three. Joe is comfortable batting at four . [but] I think he will end up at three at some stage in the future.

"He is by far our best player, and personally I believe that is where your best player should be."

England will head Down Under on the back of home series victories over South Africa and the Windies, and determined to return with the urn still in their possession despite having issues to address.

Bayliss said: "We are not going over to make up the numbers. We are going to leave here with a view to win, simple as that.

"One thing this group has got is plenty of fight and character. As I have said a few times, we have lost games and been disappointed, but we have been able to come out the next game and win."

If Root's men are to prosper in Australia, they will need to hang on to their catches, something they at times failed spectacularly to do during the most recent series when 14 went down in three matches.

Bayliss said: "We are not going to go there and win anything dropping that many. It always concerns me - the catching has been terrible, especially in the last couple of Tests.

"It is not from a lack of practice. We were catching quite well up until the last three Tests, and some of the catches we dropped were quite easy.

"Dropping easy catches is usually down to concentration. Some of the grounds in this last series haven't been the greatest viewing grounds, but still they are professional players and should be grabbing hold of some of those they've dropped."

Meanwhile, Bayliss revealed a full-time replacement for bowling coach Ottis Gibson may not be in place until next summer as England run the rule over a series of potential candidates.

Source: PA