England’s middle order under pressure to perform at Edgbaston
Although two Tests remain in England’s series against Pakistan, there may be only one chance left for a number of the hosts’ batsmen.
Time is ticking away at various speeds for Alex Hales, James Vince and Gary Ballance, with one or more low score at Edgbaston possibly enough to end their stay in the side.
Vince is most at risk having compiled 130 runs in his seven knocks this summer. An already alarming knack for being caught behind the wicket – particularly off edges from cover drives – has been picked up by both opposition and public alike. He will be under intense scrutiny in Birmingham.
Opening batsman Hales has issues of his own. He is struggling against the ball coming back in at him from the visitors’ three-pronged left-arm arsenal; so much so that he took the unusual step of changing his technique mid-match in Manchester in a bid to counter the problem.
However unfairly, considering he is only two games into his return, Ballance is also under the microscope. It seems the left-hander is just one of those players that will never truly be settled in the side, like Mark Ramprakash back in the day, or Nick Compton more recently.
All three men would dearly love a century in the third Test to banish the chatter for a while, but none are truly fancied.
We rate Hales a 6/1 chance to record his maiden ton in the format this week, with both Vince and Ballance longer at 7s. By contrast, England’s two main men, Alastair Cook and Joe Root, are 10/3 and 7/2 respectively in the same market.
It was the latter pair that helped steer the home side to a series-levelling victory in Manchester and it appears imperative that they perform again if another triumph is to be secured at Edgbaston.
Cook has been forced into making one change from Old Trafford, with Steven Finn coming back into the XI to replace the injured Ben Stokes.
Back at the ground where he made a successful return to the Test team in last summer’s Ashes, Finn is 10/1 to take a five-for against Misbah-ul-Haq’s outfit.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.