Ben Duckett’s worrying form has again opened up a debilitating issue for England—that is to find a stable number four batsman.
Duckett’s travails: To drop the promising 22-year-old, despite his meagre returns (18 runs in three outings), for the third Test seems a little harsh, but England will be prompted to ring in changes in Mohali and Duckett could be a near-certain casualty .
Like-for-like replacements: England’s headache will be that they aren’t endowed with too many alternatives. In hindsight, they seemed to have made a selectorial blunder by not picking another specialist middle-order batsman.
Jos Buttler, the favourite: Buttler seems the favourite to displace him, though he doesn’t have glittering numbers in the longest version—an average of 30 and a highest of 85 doesn’t necessarily make him the missing spark in the England batting light up. Also, he was made to resemble a nervous wreck by Pakistani spinners in UAE, eking out only 34 runs in four innings . Nonetheless, there is a school of thought that he brings the much-needed vitality to the side. However, even if he returns to the eleven, there is a high degree of probability that he would bat at six and not four.
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Moeen Ali at four: The English media seems to have taken a fancy for this idea, though the step is fraught with risk, for he is largely untested at the top. Apart from his century in Rajkot, he hasn’t looked entirely assured when the ball is turning, especially with his proclivity to go lunging at balls outside the off-stump, he could be an easy prey for Ashwin. But this seems to be the likeliest strategy in Mohali.
Gary Ballance redressal: The left-hander’s comeback was scuttled by the square turners in Bangladesh, but him being a specialist top-order batsman, it wouldn’t be foolhardy to give him another shot. It wouldn’t be an outlandish decision if England are to reconsider him, but with the visitors a Test down, he could find himself bench-warming.
Chris Woakes for Stuart Broad: Though Broad’s guile and mastery will be missed, Woakes addition could shore up England’s batting. The 27-year-old has racked up quite impressive numbers in Tests, average of 32.81 with the bat and 26.67 with the ball, are not by any standards trivial.