Captain Alastair Cook has challenged England’s batting hopefuls to seize their opportunity for a regular spot in the Test team in the upcoming series against South Africa.
The recalled Nick Compton and Alex Hales are set to battle for the chance to open alongside Cook in a position that has proved troublesome for England since former skipper Andrew Strauss retired in 2012.
England’s decision to drop the 115-capped Ian Bell following his struggles with the bat has also left the door open for Gary Ballance – dropped during England’s triumph in the Ashes against Australia earlier this year – to work his way back into the team.
Cook acknowledged it is difficult to replace the experience that Bell provides, but is keen for others to prove their worth to the team.
“Ian’s experience will be missed but over the last two years or so he has not quite delivered the numbers,” Cook is quoted as saying by several British newspapers.
“I genuinely believe the time away from the side could do him the world of good, but this now gives an opportunity to guys who are really hungry and desperate to prove themselves at this level.
“They are all good players in their own right coming in to replace him. The likes of Nick Compton, Gary Ballance and Alex Hales will be desperate to take their place in the batting line-up.
“It will be a real test for them. Now it’s down to them to make a position their own.”
England face South Africa in a four-Test series that starts in Durban on December 26.