Warwickshire opener Dominic Sibley could be set to answer England’s problems at the top of the order after receiving lavish praise from Ashley Giles.
The 24-year-old has enjoyed a stellar County Championship season and scored two hundreds in his last match against Nottinghamshire this week.
England have struggled in the opening department since the retirement of former captain Sir Alastair Cook last September.
Since then Rory Burns, Keaton Jennings, Joe Denly and Jason Roy have been given chances to open, but only Burns has cemented his spot, which saw him earn a central contract in red-ball cricket on Friday.
Ahead of next month’s tour of New Zealand, with the squad announced on Monday, England have to decide who partners the Surrey skipper at the top for the two Tests and Sibley is the front-runner.
Giles, managing director of the England men’s team, signed the Epsom batsman from Surrey in 2017 while still at Warwickshire.
“Dominic is not the prettiest on the eye all the time, but then neither is Rory Burns or Steve Smith,” Giles said.
“He is a mature guy, who works extremely hard and is really ambitious, so it’s difficult to look past what he’s got this season.
“He’s got almost 1,400 runs this year, an amazing amount of runs and pleasingly he has faced around 3,000 balls which is over a thousand more than anyone else, so that’s a good starting point.
“Whatever your technique, if you are batting that many balls you are doing something right, so I’m delighted for him, having taken him to Warwickshire, but his selection will come down to Ed (Smith) and Jim (James Taylor).”
England started the Ashes series with Burns and Roy opening, but dropped the latter down to four after three Tests and he missed out completely for the fifth and final match at his home ground of the Oval.
Denly was promoted to open and responded with two half-centuries, but the 33-year-old may find himself down the order in New Zealand or may not feature at all after he failed to receive a central contract for Test cricket.
Giles hinted at England being open to using batsmen who could get “through the first 40 to 50 overs” which would potentially allow the likes of Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler to flourish.
The former spinner also suggested the strain on Test captain Root has been too much since his appointment in February 2017, which may be a factor in his inconsistent record as skipper during Trevor Bayliss’ tenure.
“I think there have been times, because of the laidback nature of Trev, that Joe has had to lead almost over seven days; two days of preparation and five days over the match and that’s a big ask of anyone,” Giles admitted.
England are in the process of appointing a head coach and when they do a new DNA and template for Test cricket will be high on the list of priorities for the new man in charge.
However, Giles accepts a closer look into the pitches used, as well as other issues, in county cricket is required.
“You have to go for the players who can deal with the stresses of Test cricket because that is as important as anything,” he added.
“We have some good young players in the country, but again are we playing in the right conditions which will help them fully? You could argue probably not.”
England’s Test players who were involved in the World Cup win barely had two weeks to take in the magnitude of what they had achieved before they were preparing for the Ashes and Giles revealed “they are all whacked”.
But that cannot simply be an excuse for those who failed to perform against Australia, as Tim Paine’s team retained the urn after a 2-2 draw.
Surrey’s Roy, dropped for the fifth Test, can expect to be named in England’s Twenty20 squad for the tour of New Zealand, but may miss out on red-ball cricket this winter.
Giles said: “I think it would be fair for me to say Jason is very keen to play Test cricket.
“While the white-ball stuff is great fun and it’s very lucrative, I think all of the players see the biggest challenge is getting Test cricket right.”
The task for Giles now is to find a way of balancing a return to strength in Test cricket while challenging to win next year’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia, but first he needs to appoint a head coach.