File image of Mark Ramprakash © Getty Images
File image of Mark Ramprakash © Getty Images

England’s batting has looked fragile in the second Test against South Africa. Especially their top three have failed to contribute in the ongoing series. According to England batting coach Mark Ramprakash, it might be because of the increased prioritisation that T20 cricket is getting, that their batsmen are struggling to score runs in the longer format. Since the retirement of  Andrew Strauss in 2012 and that of Jonathan Trott in 2015, England have failed to find suitable replacements for them in the top three, leading to a fragility in their top-order which might result in their seventh defeat in as many as 10 Tests sometime over the next couple of days at Trent Bridge.

“With T20 being prevalent, a higher percentage of the batters we are seeing come through are gravitating to the white-ball game,” Ramprakash said. “There are not as many of your tried-and-tested county openers. Look at the number of four-day games coming down in division one this year.”

Ramprakash defended his batsmen for their failure in the first innings saying that the South African bowlers made excellent use of the conditions and most of the batsmen got out while playing a defensive shot. “We would have liked more runs in the first innings here, of course. But when you look at England’s innings, a number of players were out playing defensively. And there were a number of good deliveries. You have to give some credit to the opposition bowlers. The ball seamed around all day and it’s always difficult to play when the ball’s seaming. The guys on the one hand are trying to adapt to conditions, and on the other they want to play their own game and the way they think best so they are going to marry those together,” he said.

The batting coach went on to add that some patience is needed with this English side. He said the players were “learning as they go along” and suggested their level of natural talent had seen expectations rise to unrealistic levels.

“I don’t think anyone is saying this England side is the finished article,” he said. “Clearly, we’re still trying to bed in players at two and three. We accept that. That’s been the case for a while. The other thing is that expectations have risen because of the talent. The innings we’ve seen Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali play – we know they’ve played some sublime innings – and our expectations have probably gone up because of that. They’ve often played in that highly aggressive, attacking manner, which is the way they think is best.”

“But if you look at Ben Stokes’s fifty at Lord’s, I thought he played really well, in an orthodox fashion. So they’re learning as they go along. You have to take the rough with the smooth. Sometimes you’ll see wonderful performances like we did in Cape Town and other times they might get it wrong,” added Ramprakash.