There was a period when Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook - the third best opening partnership ever in Test Cricket - would steer the team through the first and the most difficult phase, often making defining contributions that swung matches their way. It is no surprise that the successful combination they were, the two of them went on to be one of the major reasons why England achieved what they did during that phase. Ever since, it's been a tale of ins and outs at the top.
It is hard to understand that why, despite there being so much of resources and money being put into the domestic circuit, there isn't a proper test match opener in sight. The ECB is no impecunious governing body and therefore it's sad to see why can't they produce a world-class opener across the two divisions for the national team. With all of the available options now tried, tested, and even deemed as ordinary, England do have only one man left to go, and he may yet go on to bring an end to all of the woes. He is no other than Joe Root.
It may sound a wild idea, and a bit parlous, but when have rewards ever come without taking the odd risk? Obviously, you don't want to play too much with the batting positions of someone who has done so well at where he has been, but, here we are talking about someone who has already opened the batting once, and did just about "okay" considering that he was new to International Cricket back then, and was featuring in his first Ashes series (Investec Ashes 2013).
Mind, Joe Root in 2013 and Joe Root in 2015 are two very different commodities.The young Yorkshireman has travelled a long-long way in the past two years, so far that he currently stands as officially, the best test batsman.
If he's the best in the world, he's the best you have in your team, and he has previous experiences of opening the batting - that too in England, why not hand him the responsibility of opening alongside Alastair Cook then? It isn't that the young Yorkshireman has technical flaws, he is absolutely fine in that aspect of the game. While he's still in a pliable state, Root can undoubtedly be made an opener. He has the passion, he has the confidence, he has the belief, so where's the problem?
Let's be honest, do England have anyone in the domestic circuit who's ready to face Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander in South Africa? Obviously not, in which case, a gamble with your finest batsman - who everyone knows does know a thing or two about opening - isn't a bad idea by any means. Trevor Bayliss may easily play it safe and let Alex Hales partner Cook in SA, but he may as well play ten men instead or simply go with Moeen Ali again.
Sooner or later, Bayliss does need to realise that Alastair Cook and Joe Root can together form one of the best opening partnerships England have had in the past decade or so. There's technical strength and solidity, and then the delectable melange of a classic test match opener on one side and a counter-attacking, free-flowing young batsman on the other which is just what any team would crave for. The decision is the management's.