My thinking was akin to some shambolic calling when running between the wickets: No. Yes. Wait – No!
No – Jonathan Agnew suggested that Chris Woakes was a potential opener a few years ago. To paraphrase, Woakes was someone that could do a job, perhaps on tour if an opener got injured.
This sounded ridiculous- fast bowling all rounders don’t open the batting, especially when they normally bat at six or lower. Presumably this was just a case of a commentator getting carried away during a long stint at the microphone.
Yes – And yet, as time went on, with Cook appearing to struggle and Strauss’ shoes unfilled, maybe there was some sense to it. With Root refusing to move up from number four, England had two top three places to fill (soon to be three once Cook retired).
Wait – Hang on. Easy to have wild ideas from the sidelines, would anyone really pick an untested all rounder to open the batting when they could pick from an assortment of county openers? One would have to be pretty desperate. Best to give Ali, Burns, Buttler, Compton, Denly, Duckett, Hales, Hameed, Jennings, Root, Roy, Stoneman a go before doing anything rash!
And maybe England do see something in Woakes’ batting – he batted at three against West Indies in the World Cup. Time to look at this properly.
No – While I can’t see any record of Woakes opening the batting, we can see performances against the second new ball. Not a bad proxy for performance at the top of the innings. Soon I’ll build a County Championship ball by ball database, for now his Test record will have to suffice:
Chris Woakes’ overall batting average is 29 in Tests, 35 in First Class. While he has only been dismissed nine times when batting during overs 80-100, averaging 26 in that period says that if anything Woakes would average less than his career average if he opened the batting.
Also, moving a weaker batsman up to open moves everyone else down one place. That increases the chance a batsman runs out of partners. Not ideal.
Not an especially interesting conclusion: Woakes could but shouldn’t open the batting for England.