The Bayliss Bolters - 26 Test debutants on whom the jury is still out

ESPN Cricinfo

ESPN Cricinfo

Author 2019-09-17 13:03:13

So, farewell then, England's Test team under Trevor Bayliss. You were sporadically brilliant, occasionally horrific, and stole Pakistan's mantle as the world's most outrageously unpredictable bunch of mavericks.

As much as Ben Stokes, Joe Root, James Anderson and Stuart Broad dominated the narrative around the team over four years, the Bayliss Era also saw 26 men make their Test debuts with, erm, mixed returns.

Among those ill-fated 26, the man with the most Test runs has an average of 25.19, while the bowler with the most wickets averages 39.83; they are, all things considered, about as motley a crew as you could hope for...



The Championship stalwarts

Picked on weight of performances in first-class cricket alone.

Keaton Jennings: 17 Tests, 781 runs at 25.19
Toby Roland-Jones: 4 Tests, 17 wickets at 19.64
Tom Westley: 5 Tests, 193 runs at 24.12
Mark Stoneman: 11 Tests, 526 runs at 27.68
Jack Leach: 9 Tests, 32 wickets at 26.06
Rory Burns: 12 Tests, 702 runs at 29.25
Ben Foakes: 5 Tests, 332 runs at 41.50

Right from the start of his reign, Bayliss made clear that he had limited interest in watching county cricket, and while that proclamation went down predictably badly among players hoping to break through, the evidence he was presented with hardly suggested that he was missing many gems.

After making over 1600 runs, including seven tons, in the 2016 season, Jennings struggled throughout his prolonged stay in the side, and while opening in England was incredibly hard during his stint as opener, he was eventually dropped after a poor series in the West Indies this year.

Roland-Jones impressed in his limited opportunities before a serious back injury hurt his selection chances, while Westley and Stoneman both gritted it out occasionally, but failed to look much like long-term solutions.

But in Leach, Burns and Foakes, England have hope for the future from this band of players. All three had to prove their worth season after season before graduating to international cricket, and have shown their mettle during their first few Tests - Bayliss' successor might well stick with the lot of them.



The white-ball bolters

Shone in limited-overs cricket and selected in the hope that they would channel those talents into the Test game.

Adil Rashid: 19 Tests, 60 wickets at 39.83
Alex Hales: 11 Tests, 573 runs at 27.28
Ben Duckett: 4 Tests, 110 runs at 15.71
Tom Curran: 2 Tests, 2 wickets at 100.00
Jason Roy: 5 Tests, 187 runs at 18.70
Olly Stone: 1 Test, 3 wickets at 9.67

There were times when "be positive!" and "go faster!" might as well have been tattooed on Bayliss' eyeballs, so desperate was he to import the winning mentality and hands-off method that worked so well in England's white-ball set-up into the Test side.

But the limited-overs specialists he tried out generally struggled, with Hales and Roy's efforts as openers particularly underwhelming. Duckett - who was admittedly scoring Championship runs too - was exposed against R Ashwin with predictably brutal consequences, while Rashid's up-and-down Test career could well resume in Sri Lanka next spring.

In the cases of Tom Curran and Stone, it may be too soon to tell, but their selections betrayed a coach willing to experiment in the hunt for a genuine fast bowler.



The last-resort spinners

Picked as if to show once and for all that the cupboard really was bare.

Zafar Ansari: 3 Tests, 49 runs at 9.80, 5 wickets at 55.00
Liam Dawson: 3 Tests, 84 runs at 21.00, 7 wickets at 42.57
Mason Crane: 1 Test, 1 wicket at 193.00
Dom Bess: 2 Tests, 111 runs at 37.00, 3 wickets at 40.33

Bayliss tended to call on Moeen Ali as his main spinner in England, and turned to whoever he had to when they travelled away. Ansari and Dawson were both thrown in during the winter of 2016-17 despite mediocre Championship seasons, and picked on the basis of their temperament and general good-blokery as much as for their ability to turn them out of the rough.

Crane's selection in Sydney was a Hail Mary pick well after the hour of England's death in the 2017-18 Ashes, while Bess was only ever meant to fill the void while Leach was injured. He impressed with his temperament, not least with the bat, but showed he had a lot to learn with the ball.

Test caps aren't handed out simply to prove a wider point, but at times it felt as though these might have been Bayliss' proof that there really weren't any better options.



The stop-gaps

Safe pairs of hands, chosen in the hope of plugging a hole, whatever shape it happened to be at the time.

James Vince: 13 Tests, 548 runs at 24.90
Jake Ball: 4 Tests, 3 wickets at 114.33
Dawid Malan: 15 Tests, 724 runs at 27.84
Craig Overton: 4 Tests, 124 runs at 20.66, 9 wickets at 44.77
Joe Denly: 8 Tests, 457 runs at 28.56

It is harsh on these five cricketers to reduce them to the status of sticking plasters, but it always seemed unlikely than any of them would offer a long-term solution to England's myriad problems.

Instead, each of the three batsmen was picked in the hope they might average 35 (they didn't) and both the bowlers with the demand to plug away and offer control (they couldn't).

With four fifties in the Ashes, Denly did at least end the series with some credit, but at the age of 33, he's unlikely to be a factor when England return to Australia in two years' time.



The starlets

Precocious talents whose prolific returns made them must-picks.

Haseeb Hameed: 3 Tests, 219 runs at 43.80
Sam Curran: 11 Tests, 541 runs at 30.05, 21 wickets at 29.00
Ollie Pope: 2 Tests, 54 runs at 18.00
Jofra Archer: 4 Tests, 22 wickets at 20.27

Every cycle of Test cricket sees a handful of diamonds emerge from the rough, and these four ought to have been Bayliss'.

Instead, Hameed finds himself without a county contract after being brutally exposed against right-arm medium-fast bowlers hitting the top of his off stump on green seamers, Sam Curran has spent most of the summer carrying drinks, and Pope is only two Tests into his career, yet to be given the opportunity to bed into the middle order.

Archer, though, looks like he will be England's primary fast bowler for another generation - but how much credit does Bayliss really deserve for his selection?

Only eight of the Bayliss' 26 have made it to a tenth Test; as many have made multiple hundreds (Jennings) as have retired from the game to pursue a career in law (Ansari).

They are a strange bunch, a hodge-podge of county runs and circumstance, of potential and positivity. As a microcosm of his time in the Test hot seat, they could hardly be more perfect.


⚡️Fastest Live Score

Never miss any exciting cricket moment