Test Cricket: Why Ollie Pope should bat at Five or Six to keep his England test spot and give Jos Buttler or Jonny Bairstow a chance to bat at Four

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Ollie Pope is one of the up and coming youngsters in the batting department to force his way into the England Test team.

Following his blossoming performances with Surrey at County level and Campbelltown in Sydney Grade Cricket, it’s always nervous batting for the first time playing for your country against a very skilled Indian side.

Like Jonny Bairstow & Jos Buttler, Pope can give his hand beyond batting by keeping the gloves when needed.

Although, not this test at Trent Bridge when Bairstow suffered a finger strain.

Hence Buttler kept wicket for the rest of India’s 2nd innings.

How did England first call-up Ollie Pope?

When England first called Pope up, he slotted in at No.4 replacing Dawid Malan following his dismal run at home:

  • 6 & 12, 1st Test v Pakistan at Lord’s
  • 28, 2nd Test v Pakistan at Headingley
  • 8 & 20, 1st Test v India at Edgbaston

Not ideal on home conditions, Malan averages 27.84 and a strike rate of 41.08.

Just as you think the same fate of Keaton Jennings, who averages worse at 24 & strike rates at 43.63.

Although, Jennings has nowhere reached 50 during the entire time since his recall this year only as high as 42 a fortnight ago v India.

Like Malan, it seems that Jennings will head out and try his luck back at domestic level with Lancashire once again.

So how well did Pope perform in his first two caps in the most extended format?

Pope had demonstrated a fantastic cameo in the crease of 28 before Hardik Pandya caught him out over an LBW.

Once Pope returned to the pavilion, England looked well in front during the 2nd test at Lord’s as they went on to win by an innings & 159 runs.

Although, this test it looked like it dipped down further.

This time he scored only past a bare minimum of a double-figure score.

He scored 10 in the 1st innings trapped by Rishabh Pant’s catch off Ishant Sharma.

Then he exposed another mistake by reaching and not moving his feet that much trying to employ that cut shot.

But instead, it edged straight to Virat Kohli’s sensational screamer off Mohammed Shami saw Pope’s 2nd innings run crashing on 16.

So what does Ollie Pope have to do to keep his England test spot?

I know England are trying to complement Root & Pope with two brilliant youngsters rounding the top order at 3 & 4 respectively.

But Pope is inexperienced at the top order as this batting spot has to belong to the experienced specialists.

So the likes of Jos Buttler or Jonny Bairstow can bat at four as long as the workload doesn’t contain too much with the gloves.

Instead, Pope is one of the starters and deserves an extended run into the squad.

He’s more of the finisher-type status batting at the middle order either Five or Six considering he’s a specialist batsman.

That way you can allow Bairstow/Buttler spend more time exposing their shot types & techniques with a bit more license to thrill.

It’ll be pretty useful for Pope seeing how a specialist batsman like Butter can whack across the field at the right time and then get his maiden Test hundred at Six.

Ollie Pope can learn two of the greatest in Bairstow & Buttler

Pope can learn from two of the best in Buttler and Bairstow before making a middle-order position on his own.

Look at Dawid Malan; he’s a natural run-getter at Five having scored a hundred at the WACA v Australia last year.

However, he’s much of a different batsman that no one couldn’t recognize him on a different level at 4 in home turf.

Pope must not continue risking his spot at four which is a standard too much above his batting ability.

He can revisit that for later in a couple of years time.

For now, Ollie Pope can replicate what he did for Surrey into his first 50 or 100 upon the next two tests at Five of Six.

Give the experienced specialists a hand for Joe Root first, then the impact of Pope at test level will gradually get better in the middle order.

He needs time & does remind me of Peter Handscomb when he kickstarted his test career with a 50 & two 100s for Australia two years ago.

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