London, Jul 28: Trevor Bayliss, the England head coach, has admitted that the misfiring top order might be England's biggest concern ahead of the Ashes.
Since March 2014, only the retired Alistair Cook (4376) has scored more than 1000 runs at the top of the order for England, with Keaton Jennings coming in next with 755. Seventeen players have been tried as openers in this period, and just 23 of the 123 first-wicket stands have been worth more than 50.
Given that inconsistency, and the uncertainty around the No.3 slot, Bayliss called for England's top order to step up ahead of the series.
"You don't have to be Einstein to work that out," he said when asked if that would be their biggest problem heading into the series. "They have been for the last six or seven years, but it didn't stop us from winning the Ashes four years ago."
Rory Burns, Jason Roy and Joe Denly, who are all included in England's 14-man squad for the first Test, are direct top-order choices for the hosts. They have 11 Test matches between them, though, and the lack of experience might prove dangerous going into the series, as it has already emerged during England's batting collapse in the first innings of the Ireland Test, an ICC report on Sunday said.
While Roy was dismissed for 5 in his maiden Test innings, he ground it out in the second to make a crucial 72. Bayliss admitted that it might take him time to adjust to red-ball cricket, but also admired the opener's persistence during that knock.
"Like any debutant, he looked nervous, but to score 70-odd in your first Test was a good effort," Bayliss said. "There was a bit more in those wickets than I'm sure he's been used to in white-ball cricket over the last few years, but runs are runs.
He wouldn't be the first player to look scratchy and eke out runs. In fact, that's a good sign, I think."
"We want him to go out and play his natural game, but in red-ball cricket, you have to be a little more selective. You've got to make a conscious effort to say to yourself, 'I'm not going to go for the big cover drive on the up until I'm really settled, the wicket is flat or the ball's not doing as much'," he said.
The first Test between England and Australia begins at Edgbaston on August 1. (UNI)