After England’s top order reached new lows during the second Test against India at Lord’s, there came a genuine and perhaps overdue sense that change is required. England will not necessarily recall fresh, uncapped personnel, with many touting Dawid Malan for a return to whites and Ollie Pope making his comeback.
If they do choose to look elsewhere, though, Jake Libby and Rob Yates will be two players on many people’s lips. The 28-year-old Libby became the first man in 68 years to score a century on debut for Nottinghamshire. Now of Worcestershire, he is known for his excellent temperament, displayed in abundance during his 11-hour Championship epic against Essex earlier this year. He made 498 runs in five games last year and continued his form into 2021.
Rob Yates, a more long-term prospect at just 21 years of age, has impressed at Warwickshire, the home of the current, potentially outgoing England opener Dom Sibley. Also batting at the top of the order, Yates already has four first-class centuries to his name, and a resilient knock of 88 last month against Worcestershire ensured Warwickshire’s place in Division One of the County Championship.
However, Libby’s and Yates’s first-class averages of 34.50 and 29.18 do not inspire a huge amount of confidence, despite England’s history of unearthing previously unprolific gems from the county game. The home side are most likely to minimise the personnel changes to one or two, instead shifting the order around to facilitate the prodigal Pope and continued presence of Jonny Bairstow.