Compton should open in New Zealand

It’s a bit early to start really looking at the XI to play the first Test against New Zealand; the first Test is still over a month away and England are still playing the ODIs in India. But this week Michael Vaughan said that he thought Joe Root should open the batting in New Zealand with Jonny Bairstow coming back at number six. (I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that the former Yorkshire player is advocating two Yorkshire men…) As good as Root has looked and as much as I do think Bairstow deserves more chances, I think it would be a mistake to drop Nick Compton.

Compton looked the perfect Test opener in India; he batted cautiously and wore down the bowlers when he needed to early in the innings and when he had the chance to play more aggressively he showed that he could do that too. He only made the one fifty, but it’s hard to ask for much more from a debutant. Root also played very well in the one Test he played, but not only is that not enough to immediately stick him up the order I don’t think it is enough to even guarantee his place at number six. It was only one Test and I think both Bairstow and James Taylor should still be in the running for the position. Neither have really done anything to be dropped and especially I don’t think that Root’s innings against India were particularly more impressive than Bairstow’s innings at Lord’s against South Africa. (Which is not to take away from Root’s performance, of course.)

The only way Root should open the batting for now is if Compton either gets injured or has a run of failures against New Zealand. This could happen, of course, but Compton has some credit built up and even if he does have some failures he should be given at least a couple of Tests. I would start with Root at six in New Zealand as I don’t think the one warmup England are playing ahead of the Tests will really be enough to knock him off that spot, but I would definitely have Bairstow and Taylor both in the squad. England have three very good options at number six now (making for a pretty drastic change from just a year ago when they didn’t have any) and they shouldn’t chisel any one of them into stone. But at the same time there is no need to get rid of a solid looking opener just to make more room at number six.

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