Ashes 2015: Moeen Ali could oust Adam Lyth as opener - Agnew

By Jonathan AgnewBBC cricket correspondent
Moeen Ali and Adam Lyth in training
Moeen Ali has scored more than double the runs of Adam Lyth in this Ashes series, despite playing two fewer innings

Adam Lyth was handed a final chance to nail down his place on Saturday after a desperately disappointing Ashes series but sadly he couldn't make it count.

The Yorkshire opener only managed 10 runs as England fell to 203-6 in their second innings to leave Australia on the brink of a consolation victory.

Lyth was always in a very difficult place. It's horrible when you go out to bat knowing you have one last chance.

Some players rise to the challenge, but Lyth couldn't do it and now faces an anxious wait to discover whether he is still involved for England's trip to the UAE to face Pakistan in October and November.

Lyth is a naturally attacking player but batsmen need to be able to adapt to situations and more than once in this series, he has played the wrong shot at the wrong time.

Lyth's potential replacements
BatsmanTestsCareer averageAvge this season
Moeen Ali1538.0731.19
Gary Ballance1551.7936.05
Nick Compton943.2238.12
Alex Hales037.8653.42

Even before he was out to Peter Siddle on Saturday, he had attempted a booming drive outside off stump against a very wide ball from the same bowler. When you are trying to save a Test match, that type of shot just doesn't make sense.

Lyth is a very good cricketer, a sharp slip catcher who is popular in the dressing-room, but at the end of the day an opening batsman is judged on runs.

In fact, even if he had succeeded on Saturday, Lyth may still have lost his place, given England's need to introduce at least one more spinner into their team for the series against Pakistan.

The obvious move would be to shift Moeen Ali up to open and make room for a spinner down the order.

This may turn out to be a short-term measure given a different approach will be needed against South Africa's pace attack later in the winter, but that series should not enter into the selectors' minds.

The UAE is a one-off challenge in a part of the world where you need to play two spinners so you must select your best side for the conditions.

England opener vote graphic
Moeen was the second choice of BBC Sport readers to open the batting in the UAE, after Alex Hales

In the longer-term, England's search for a replacement for Andrew Strauss as Alastair Cook's opening partner goes on.

Nottinghamshire's Alex Hales scored a timely hundred on Friday but he is a big front-footer who likes to play his shots and I have reservations about him opening the batting against South Africa's Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

One contender might be Gary Ballance, who showed signs that he might be getting some form and confidence back with a big hundred for Yorkshire against Sussex on Saturday.

Ballance has scored runs at this level before and I said when he was dropped that it should not necessarily spell the end of his Test career.

If you bat at number three, generally you should be able to open because the qualities you require a very similar.

England's search for Andrew Strauss's successor since 2012
Tests as openerRunsHighest scoreAverage100s/50s
Nick Compton947911734.682/1
Joe Root533918037.661/1
Michael Carberry*52816028.100/1
Sam Robson733612730.541/1
Jonathan Trott*3725921.200/1
Adam Lyth726510720.381/0
*Does not include matches prior to Strauss's retirement in which Carberry and Trott opened (once each in Bangladesh in 2010)

Those qualities - namely patience, judgement and shot selection - were in evidence as Alastair Cook batted for 77 overs to score 85 runs on Saturday.

But he fell to a sucker punch in the dying stages of the day as a ball from part-time leg-spinner Steve Smith skewed off the inside edge into the hands of Adam Voges at short leg.

It was a clever bit of captaincy from Michael Clarke to try something different after front-line spinner Nathan Lyon had bowled well but mechanically.

With that, you would imagine, goes England's last hope of saving the match, and with a new ball due immediately on Sunday morning, Australia should wrap up the victory that their efforts deserve.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's Sam Sheringham.

Top Stories