England cricket captain Alastair Cook has laid down a challenge to England’s batsmen, and it could be terrific news for Nottinghamshire.
After a Test series in which Alex Hales and James Taylor each showed glimpses of their quality without nailing down their place in the side, the whole top seven has been urged to pile on the runs for their counties.
Hales set the platform for England’s mammoth 629-6 at Cape Town with an assured 60 while, although Taylor will perhaps be better remembered for his heroics at short-leg, his 70 and 42 were crucial to England winning the first match of the series in Durban by 241-runs.
The Outlaws’ pair averaged 17 and 27 respectively in the series and - together with Middlesex’s Nick Compton, whose mean score was 30.62 - impressed their captain and head coach Trevor Bayliss at times, but are in need of a prolific start to the 2016 county campaign to secure a spot for the home series against Sri Lanka.
“I think at the end of the day results matter and your end column of runs is absolutely vital,” said Cook.
“So to say they’ve totally convinced me would be wrong, but there have been flashes.
“There’s certainly places up for grabs. Trevor, the selectors and I will have to sit down and discuss that because the output we’ve had in this series hasn’t been good enough if we’re trying to get to number one in the world – which is the ultimate aim. We have to produce better numbers in this series.
“That will be discussed and those guys have got to continue working hard to make sure, when selection comes around for Sri Lanka, they’ve got a bucket load of runs for their counties.”
Since the appointment of Trevor Bayliss as Head Coach, England have drawn (with Paul Farbrace in temporary charge) a home series against New Zealand, won the Ashes, lost to Pakistan in the UAE and now triumphed 2-1 in South Africa.
The two series wins, however, each ended with dead rubber defeats, against Australia at the Kia Oval in September and recently in Pretoria against the South Africans.
While Cook describes himself as “ecstatic” with the way his side have begun under the new regime, he is now calling for greater consistency from his young team.
“We’re a dangerous side to play against, absolutely, but for us to go to the next level we have to become more consistent in all of our areas and not have as many off days as we’re having,” he said.
“This side has the ability to change games and win games quickly.
“Just last week it was level and then Stuart (Broad) obviously got six-for and won us that game very quickly.
“At Cape Town we didn’t win but we should have been pushing for a win if we had held our catches.
“That partnership off 200 in a session (Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes) took the game away from South Africa. We have that ability and yet we are still not playing to our potential consistently.
“If we had played well here for the five days that would have been four games where we played really well,” the 31-year-old captain and all-time record run-scorer continued.
“It just shows that we’re getting better, but there’s still a huge amount of work we need to do if we want to get better.
“If you said eight weeks ago that we’d be stood here 2-1 then we’d be very happy - we’re more than happy, we are ecstatic with the way we’ve played - but obviously there are areas where we have got to get better,” Cook added.
“The games we’ve won we took every catch. The games that we haven’t won, we dropped far too many chances.
“Although we lost three Test matches this winter, and won just two, it’s been good winter in terms of this side getting better.
“We are still a long way away from this group of players reaching their potential.”