The only part of the England line up which hasn’t experienced any chopping and changing (bar Captain Strauss sportingly letting someone else have a go) for some time is the two names at the top of the scorecard. Nonetheless, as with every other place, there is always speculation as to whether one or the other member of the opening partnership is up to the job.
Andrew Strauss managed to overcome his doubters in 2008 (Napier), and was the leading figure in support of the team returning to India following the Mumbair terror attacks that year, claiming that it was their “duty to the game”. A century per innings in Chennai put him in a good position to succeed Kevin Pietersen following his fallout with former coach Peter Moores, and it certainly invigorated Strauss’ batting, with three centuries in the tour of the West Indies, followed by a man of the series performance in the 2009 Ashes series. Unlikely to be challenged for the captaincy for some time, there isn’t much point trying to question his position.
Alastair Cook meanwhile, has been taking his turn as the opening batsman in the firing line for what seems like an eternity. While he may have scored several centuries in the timespan since Strauss’ last ton (Lord’s 2009), his form has been remarkably scratchy for a batsman of his calibre. His struggles against Pakistan’s opening bowlers are a cause for concern, given that an opener should be able to somewhat cope with swing due to their exposure to the new bowl from the off. If he can stick around for the first 20 overs in Australia however, it’s possible that he could hang around for longer than he tended to against Pakistan’s notorious M pairing, since legend has it that the Kookaburra ball, unlike the Dukes one used in England, loses the ability to swing after that long.
Despite his troubles, I believe that Cook’s place is more or less secure, given his recently found ability to produce a hundred when the doubts start to set in, which one imagines he picked up from Paul Collingwood during a nets session or something.
Jonathan Trott is also capable of deputising, but this should only be a worst case scenario sort of thing, as he looked more and more comfortable batting at one down this summer.