The start of the County Championship seasons brings excitement and opportunity, with players knowing a run of performances could put them onto England’s radar.
This year, with the bowling ranks settled, it’s the top order batting where places could be up for grabs, meaning early-season runs are bound to catch the eye of selectors.
Unless he scores 600 to 700 runs in the first half of the season I think that Keaton Jennings’ time as an England opener is up.
His technique has been badly exposed at international level through repeated similar dismissals and, with an average of 25.19 after 32 innings, chief selector Ed Smith will definitely be looking at alternatives.
Rory Burns opened the West Indies tour in January with an innings of 84 and, despite some low scores since, I feel he’s shown enough promise to be safe for now.
The Surrey captain has been very consistent over the past five years, which will also play into his hands with the Ashes on home soil this summer.
James Vince has moved up to open the batting for Hampshire this season in a bid to get back into the side and I think it’s a sign of good communication. Smith has told him where there’s a space and challenged him to prove his worth.
Vince is a class player – he made 76 on his last appearance for England against New Zealand in April 2018 – and he has the benefit of people wanting him to succeed.
Like Mark Ramprakash in the 1990s, he’s got the ability. Now he needs to find the consistency against the moving ball to overcome his weakness outside the off-stump.
He started with 40 in a win against Essex last week, so now he needs to kick on and show he can deal with the new ball.
Vince has got plenty of competition. Smith was at Wantage Road to see another dropped player, Dawid Malan, score an unbeaten 160 for Middlesex last week.
Like Jennings, Malan doesn’t move his feet well enough. It’s a visible area of weakness bowlers target which he needs to improve upon.
Playing in Division Two doesn’t help his case though and I think he’ll need something special to force his way back in.
Despite being known as a white-ball player Jason Roy has a strong case: he’s a proven performer at international level at the top of the order and is constantly improving.
England have picked batsmen off Championship form with little success recently, so maybe if Roy has a brilliant World Cup they should go down a different route with someone they know well.
However, I think his assets wouldn’t be best served opening, and with so many class players already established down the order Roy might struggle to get a look-in just yet.
Joe Clarke has made a flying start to the season following his move from Worcestershire to Nottinghamshire, scoring 112 and 97 not out against Yorkshire.
The 22-year-old is certainly knocking on the door having also impressed for the Lions and, with Stuart Broad in his team, he might have someone advocating for him in the England camp too.
It’s an exciting time to be an English batsman. Runs turn heads and prompt people to champion your cause, and with a huge summer of cricket on the horizon, now is the perfect time to make a name for yourself.