England v South Africa Tests
Cook's opening partner no certainty
The former Test skipper might have a new top-order teammate for the first Test of the English summer
22 June 2017, 10:19 PM AEST
Alastair Cook could find himself with a new opening partner after top-order batsman Haseeb Hameed’s poor start to the 2017 season continued with a duck for the England Lions.
Hameed made his Test debut and partnered Cook in India before injury struck down the youngster in the third Test in Mohali. Durham’s Keaton Jennings replaced Hameed for the final two matches and made a century in his maiden Test innings.
England haven’t played a Test since the fifth match in the subcontinent but their next assignment is just two weeks away and Hameed’s alarming record in first-class cricket this season could see him fail to regain his spot alongside Cook and replaced by in-form Surrey opener Mark Stoneman.
In six four-day matches for Lancashire this English summer, Hameed has scored just 174 runs at 19.33 with a high score of 47.
In stark contrast, Stoneman has amassed 627 runs at 67.20 from the same number of matches, and his best knock of 197 is more than Hameed’s entire season tally.
Hameed and Stoneman opened the batting for the England Lions against South Africa A in Canterbury in what appears to be an effective shoot-out to partner Cook against the Proteas at Lord’s on July 6.
Hameed let his chance go begging, out for an 11-ball duck, while Stoneman hit nine fours in his 58 in a 105-run stand with Jennings, who made 57 and is expected to be named at first-drop for the first Test.
Should Stoneman, 29, leapfrog the 20-year-old Hameed, he would be Cook’s 12th opening partner since Andrew Strauss retired in August 2012.
Nick Compton and Cook put on three century stands in their 17 innings facing the new ball, but that combination ended in 2013.
And while it’s a small sample size – only five innings – it’s Hameed’s partnership with the former captain that’s yielded the highest average stand of 67.60.
Cook’s other eight partners since Strauss include: Alex Hales (20 innings), Adam Lyth (13), Joe Root (11), Sam Robson (11), Michael Carberry (10), Jonathan Trott (6), Moeen Ali (5) and Ben Duckett (4).
Hameed will be hoping for a significant score in the second innings for the Lions and then for Lancashire in a round of day-night four-day matches before the England’s first Test squad is named.