Five alternatives for Keaton Jennings
Ever since former England captain Andrew Strauss retired five years ago, the selectors have struggled to provide an ideal partner for Alastair Cook at the top of the order. The number of openers England have so far used since Strauss quit international cricket comprises an entire playing eleven: Nick Compton, Joe Root, Michael Carberry, Sam Robson, Jonathan Trott, Adam Lyth, Moeen Ali, Alex Hales, Ben Duckett, Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jennings.
The latest of those, Jennings made his Test debut in India during the previous winter. After cracking a hundred in his maiden Test innings, he strongly staked a claim for the spot that had bothered England for years. But since that memorable debut knock, Jennings has struggled to cement his place at the top. He has passed fifty only once in nine innings, and there are concerns regarding his habit of getting stuck at the crease against pace, which allows for little foot movement.
After five Tests, Jennings averages a paltry 25.90 and has fallen woefully short of the high expectations which his first Test innings brought on him.
Though Jennings has been named in the squad for the final Test against South Africa at Old Trafford, his place seems to be hanging by a thread. And as England aim to retain the Ashes Down Under, we mention five possible replacements for the 25-year-old.
#5 James Hildreth
Right-hander James Hildreth brings a wealth of experience following 228 first-class games for Somerset. His polished technique and perfect temperament always drew attention but never gained its share of appeal. Brimming with talent and ability, Hildreth somehow always fell short of an England call-up, owing largely to his frailties against the short ball.
Runs in multiple seasons for his county meant he had enough opportunities to grab the limelight as part of various junior England squads. In 2009, Hildreth slammed a career-best 303*, and the following year, produced 1,440 runs at 65.45 that included seven centuries.
A domestic average always crawling towards 40 before being pulled back again by inconsistent performances, perhaps he did not do justice to the exemplary batting surface that Taunton provided – a ground considered a paradise for shooting batting careers up the ladder.
Despite that, there is a good chance the national selectors could finally turn their eyes towards Hildreth, albeit as an opener.
What might count against him, however, would not only be the fact that Jonathan Trott’s promotion from number three to opener failed to pay dividends in 2015, but also that he celebrates his 33rd birthday come September. Unlikely to make his England debut, Hildreth’s only contribution for the senior side might remain Ricky Ponting’s catch at Lord’s, which he took as a substitute fielder in the 2005 Ashes.