In this week's first pre-season friendly with Middlesex at the Oval Michael Brown and Tom Lancefield opened the batting. In today's abortive attempt at the second pre-season friendly at the Rose Bowl, Michael Brown made his way to the wicket with another partner, Gary Wilson. It seems Chris Adams is still not sure of who his opening partnership should be.
In the limited overs games we have such a settled and effective opening partnership in Hamilton-Brown and Davies which makes the County Championship situation all the more frustrating. At least in 2011 Adams has at his disposal 50% of his first choice opening pair with the return of Michael Brown. But who should join him?
Arun Harinath was tried at the beginning of 2010 but his tendency to get bogged down soon saw him discarded. I like Harinath, I think he has the attitude to succeed but I don't think he's an opener at this stage. Harinath's partner in crime was Matthew Spriegel but having two relatively slow scorers at the top was never likely to bear fruit.
Tom Lancefield was also given a go later in the season and looked the part in scoring a couple of fifties but I think his batting is still better suited to the middle order for now. Jason Roy was tried with him and his 69 from 72 balls against Glamorgan was genuinely impressive but his next three scores were 8, 11 and 6 and we seemed to be back at square one again. In all I think 9 opening pairs were tried, Brown and Lancefield/Wilson in pre-season brings that to 11.
So is Gary Wilson the answer to these problems? Its possible, he's attacking but not as aggressive as Roy and he's more experienced than Lancefield so may be more adept at maneuvering the ball around. Whichever partnership Adams settles on he should give them a chance to settle, however tempting it may be to chop and change (especially when we don't have the comforting presence of Ramprakash at number three until May).
Facing up to the new ball early in the season is a significant challenge, in the first month of the season the openers could very likely be facing up to James Harris in Cardiff and Toby Roland-Jones and Tim Murtagh at Lord's - not an easy ride. This will only be made more difficult if the partnership isn't given a chance to develop.
If I was Adams I'd make sure Brown uses his experience and plays the anchor role, that way he can partner him with a more attacking option such as Wilson or Roy. Adams might have hit upon something trying Wilson, he's opened 29 times for Ireland in ODIs and although his average is only 29 in those games that doesn't fully reflect the significant strides he has made in the last 12 months. If Wilson is to become a fixture in the four day side, and I believe he will, it might be best to accommodate him at the top of the order and let the youngsters Roy, Lancefield, Maynard and Co. develop in the middle order for 2011.
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