To cap a phrase of one George Bush, “Ladies and gentleman, we got him!”. This would have been the conversation no doubt that coach Brendan McCullum would have been having with the world’s media.
Graham Westley, Moeen Ali, James Bracey and Joe Root are some players in the long line of players trying to fill the number three position. In football terms, the number three batting position is like what a number six is in football, both protect the big hitters.
In cricketing terms, pardon the pun, but batting at three is very important. England did have one of the best in the business at the time in Jonathan Trott, but the ex-Warwickshire man has not been replaced in the decade he retired from wearing The Three Lions jersey.
After the first fall of the wicket, whether that be 0-1 or 175-1, the number three’s mentality needs to be the same, get in, protect the mid/lower order and put pressure on the bowlers.
When one goes down, fielding teams will think, ‘this is our opening’, but the number three’s duty is to kill the momentum after the loss of the first wicket. The players that were batting at three for England, are all talented players, but something didn’t click.
Maybe too aggressive or the burden of filling the man’s shoes (Trott), who wore them in the first place. When England at the start of this summer announced that they will be putting a different batsman at three, the cricket-loving side of the nation probably drew its breath.
I know I did, but when I learned that it would be Ollie Pope, I was hoping I would be proven wrong. On the whole, I am happy to say Pope has made the position his own.
The ongoing test match between South Africa and his native England, the Surrey man, has been so elegant. Early in his innings in the third test, he was playing straight and a beautiful on-drive, which got him three, got me drooling.
England’s new-look batting approach is seeing them play as they would in the ODI format, but with Ollie Pope’s example, you can still have a good strike rate but not play rash shots.
There were many examples of his excellent stroke play, but the best compliment I can give him is that he’s the only player in this match to make a 50.
The lazy comparison is to say he reminds me of Ian Bell, but I use it as a sheer compliment. Pope came into the side as a middle-order batsman, but he (much to my surprise), has shown that he can make the position his own.
Indian legend Rahul Dravid was known as the wall because on many occasions his defence would be near impossible to break through. Ollie Pope, of course, is not in that conversation yet, but admirably he’s been England’s main line of defence.
He’s the main line of defence as England, still haven’t found a stable opening batting partnership to prevent exposing him early to the new ball. Just like with the number three position, they have chopped and changed the opening pair and changed again, it’s getting silly.
Yes, it’s early days, but I can’t understate this, I was wrong to say Pope is a good player but I don’t think he can succeed at number three, he can. The 24-year-old is up against a South Africa attack that’s one of the best in the world game but is still performing admirably.
It’s easy to forget (I did), but Ollie Pope is 24 years old, he will have some good times and bad, but so far this summer I have only seen good, long may that continue.
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