England coach Bayliss mulls changes ahead of second New Zealand Test
Moeen Ali’s place may be in jeopardy as England ponder changes in Christchurch
Moeen Ali may be the fall guy of England’s latest Test trouncing on their travels as coach Trevor Bayliss ponders selection changes in Christchurch.
Moeen’s 50th Test, at Auckland’s Eden Park, brought no respite from his or England’s troubles this winter.
The off-spinning all-rounder mustered 28 runs in two innings, and no wickets in his 17 overs as New Zealand piled up 427 for eight declared in an innings-and-49-run victory.
Under Bayliss, and latterly the captaincy of Joe Root, England’s miserable sequence in away Tests extends to 10 defeats in 12, of which the last three were inflicted by an innings.
Bayliss, who will leave his role after next year’s home World Cup and Ashes rematch, insists the pressure of poor results is not weighing him down as yet.
The Australian has conceded, however, there could be changes of playing personnel at Hagley Park on Friday when England bid for an overdue, series-squaring success in the second and final Test.
“Anyone at this level who doesn’t perform gets spoken about – ‘do we make a change’?” he said.
Asked specifically about Moeen’s travails, Bayliss added: “I’m sure he’s disappointed with the way he’s gone.
“He had a fantastic summer, (but) this winter away I’m sure hasn’t gone how he would have liked.
“I’m sure that will be a discussion.”
Alternatives include a debut for left-arm spinner Jack Leach or the return of England’s fastest bowler Mark Wood, if it is decided the seam contingent needs a shake-up.
“They will certainly come into contention and will be spoken about,” Bayliss said of Leach and Wood.
“Having lost so many games overseas, we’ve given a lot of guys an opportunity who haven’t really grabbed hold of it.
“At some stage we have to look at who is next. That will certainly be discussed over the next couple of days.”
But Bayliss insists England have picked the right players for this tour.
“We’ve got the best squad here – I haven’t heard too many people come up with who the replacements might be.
“(But) we’ve still got a number of guys in the team who haven’t really nailed down their position.
“We are still searching for guys to put their hands up, so we have 11 fully-fledged international cricketers.”
You can’t pick two left and two right-armers if they are your second-best bowlers
While England struggled to find any movement with the pink ball in New Zealand’s inaugural day-night Test, the hosts’ Trent Boult recorded a career-best six for 32 in the tourists’ shambolic first-innings 58 all out – and then his fellow left-armer Neil Wagner helped bowl them out a second time.
Bayliss can only lament England’s lack of contenders to do the same.
“Anyone would love to have variety, but they’ve also got to be good enough,” he said.
“You can’t pick two left and two right-armers if they are your second-best bowlers.
“You’ve got to pick your best – I’m not sure if there’s a lot of left-armers ready to go for Test cricket in England at the moment.”
Selection calls may yet be complicated by Ben Stokes’ fitness in his native city.
The all-rounder had to play as a specialist batsman in Auckland because of a stiff back which troubled him towards the end of his innings as he tried in vain to bat out a stalemate on Monday.
But Bayliss had an encouraging update.
“He said it wasn’t actually the (same) soreness in the back that he had when bowling – it was (just) from not having batted for a long time.
“He didn’t seem too concerned. There was nothing nasty in there for sure.”