Keaton Jennings may be the least likely to be involved. It is not just that he has endured a disappointing tour – he averaged 15.50 with a top-score of 23 – but that he cannot be said to have lacked opportunities. He has now played 17 Tests and averages 25.19. That is not a small sample size. He will need to score prolifically for Lancashire to win a recall.
Rory Burns has not secured his future, either. He has, at times, looked to have what it takes to prosper as a Test opener and he has, at times, taken some excellent catches. But, after six games, he is averaging 25 – a fraction lower than Jennings. While he made 84 in the second innings in Barbados, has suffered too many soft dismissals – the second-innings late cut to the cordon in Antigua was a particular low point – to have made the most of this opportunity. He, too, will need runs for Surrey if he is to be considered for the Ireland Test.
There will be other contenders for all these positions. Despite little experience opening for Surrey or England Lions – he went in at No. 3 in his most recent first-class games for both sides – Jason Roy is one who will be considered, while it remains to be seen what the selectors are planning for Jonny Bairstow. He was a No. 3 batsman last week, after all. Who knows what he will be by July.
It will be interesting, too, to see where James Vince bats for Hampshire, too. It is understood that it has been suggested by some in the England management that Vince might like to consider opening. While Vince’s initial response to that idea is said to have been cool, he may yet conclude it offers his best chance of a recall.
Perhaps Max Holden or Nick Gubbins might force their way into contention, too, while Ben Duckett and Haseeb Hameed could, with good starts to the season, win recalls. Ian Bell and James Hildreth will have their supporters, too, though the former will be 37 in April and the latter is 34 and uncapped.
The fact that the debate continues, though, underlines how little progress England have made. Instead of going into the Ashes with a stable side, they will go into hoping that the next round of candidates do better than the last. With three top-order places available and an Ashes series looming, county batsmen may never have had such opportunity.