6, 37, 0, 7, 10, 12, 14 – no, not the numbers from Lost but Adam Lyth’s scores in this Ashes series.
It seems a little churlish to talk about downsides on a day where England have thoroughly outplayed and outthought Australia but the form of opener Adam Lyth really is cause for concern. Having scored just 86 runs in the series, leaving him with an alarming average of 12.28.
His overall test average of 21.45 isn’t too great either and that has been propped up by his best score of 107 against New Zealand. So, this poses the question – is Adam Lyth good enough for test cricket?
On one hand, it’s hard to judge. Coming up against two of the world’s best test attacks in the two series in which he’s played clearly isn’t easy. However, if you want to make it at the top level of the game, you have to be able to cope with the very best.
I can’t help but feel that he was hard done by during the tour to the West Indies. Having scored over 1,300 runs in the County Championship last year he was rightly selected to tour. Then he had to watch from the side-lines as Jonathon Trott opened the batting in the three test matches. Bearing in mind that Trott previously batted at 3 for England and bats at 4 for Warwickshire, it must have been especially galling for Lyth. Having failed in all three games, Trott did the decent thing and announced his retirement from international cricket.
Hence when the cricket returned to England this summer, Lyth was three tests behind where he should have been. While the West Indies attack are no mugs, it’s definitely possible that Lyth could have started the summer with some confidence boosting scores behind him.
However, there’s not point focussing on “what ifs” and missed opportunities. The brutal facts are that Lyth hasn’t looked up to test cricket so far. While he has an outstanding record in domestic cricket, it doesn’t look like he is able to make the step up.
In many ways, it’s the opposite situation to that which England had under Duncan Fletcher. There he picked a couple a couple of players in Trescothick and Vaughan who had distinctly average County records. However, he could clearly see something in them and when they were exposed to the pressure of international cricket they were able to respond and lift their games accordingly. Unfortunately, for Lyth it looks like he could be one of those players who is excellent at one level but not quite good enough, either in terms of technique or application, at the next level up.
However, there are a couple of things that could see Lyth keep his place for the final test at The Oval. Firstly, there is no obvious replacement. The players being mooted for his place are those like Compton and Carberry who have been tried before by England and discarded once already. Secondly, should England win the fourth test as they should, will they want to change a winning team? Even if the series is done and dusted, they would probably want to give Lyth one last chance to book a spot on the winter tour.
Potentially with the Ashes in the bag and the pressure off, would we see some of the form that Lyth showed last summer? Would England persevere with him even if he failed again just due to lack of alternatives?
Adam Lyth probably has a maximum of three innings to save his nascent test career. If he can’t take them England are back to square one in their attempts to find a long term replacement for Andrew Strauss.
Originally published on the On Nottingham website