Opening the batting has long been one of the toughest jobs in cricket, but that’s particularly been the case over the past couple of years in England.
England’s long, drawn out search for successors to Andrew Strauss since his retirement in 2012 has been much documented, so we decided to get him, and another opening great, Michael Atherton, to talk through the challenges of the job.
Click on the video above to watch as Strauss (7,037) and Atherton (7,728) – with a combined 14,765 Test runs between them – share their wisdom and give their top tips to aspiring openers.
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Atherton believes opening the batting is one of the toughest jobs you can do in Test cricket, saying: “The bowlers are fresh and optimistic, the ball is new, the seam is proud – and that is replicated every time you come to the crease.
“There is never a time when you come out and the team is 200-2, with the opposition a little bit flat.
“They are always on the offensive at the start of an innings, more catchers in than at any other stage and, therefore, if you make a mistake, that mistake is likely to be costly.”
For Strauss, it boils down to three key things: “The first thing; you’ve got to have the ability to keep the good ball out.
“Against good seam and swing bowling, that means being able to play the ball late, under your eyes and also to be balanced at the point of release – someone with a heavy head, Jimmy Anderson would eat them for breakfast.
“Secondly, it’s not so much the shots you play, it’s the shots you don’t play – especially in the first 10 or 15 overs. That means no big drives on the up through extra cover, no straight-bat shots through the offside off the back foot.
“Then the third thing, and probably the most important, is you’ve got to have stomach for the fight. You don’t see too many openers last a long period of time if they’re a bit flighty, they don’t fancy the short ball or don’t relish the challenge.
“If you think this is something that has to be endured – facing the best bowlers, at their freshest – then I don’t think you have the right mindset to be a long-term opener.”
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