London: It is Test cricket’s equivalent of a lonely hearts advert: experienced opener seeks partner for meaningful relationship.
Yet for England captain Alastair Cook it is no joke.
Since former skipper and first-wicket colleague Andrew Strauss retired in 2012, left-hander Cook has had six partners at the top of the order. (Also read: How England beat Australia in T20 thriller)
This season saw Adam Lyth join a list that includes Nick Compton, Joe Root, Michael Carberry, Sam Robson and Jonathan Trott, who has since retired from Test duty
Compton’s nine appearances and 17 innings are the most any of the sextet have so far managed alongside Cook, although Root has flourished at four and five.
Yorkshire’s Lyth made a Test hundred against New Zealand at his Headingley home ground but struggled during the Ashes, averaging a mere 12.77 in England’s 3-2 series win over Australia.
Before the year is out, England also head to South Africa — where fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel will be waiting for Cook’s men.
Moeen Ali has been touted as a possible replacement for Lyth in the UAE, a move that would allow England to play two spinners on pitches known to aid turn.
Ali, however, has struggled against out-and-out quick bowling in Test cricket, suggesting he may not be suited to opening in South Africa.
With no stand-out candidate to bat alongside him at the top of the order, Cook told BBC Radio Five on Monday: “That is a really interesting decision the selectors have to make.
“I think there’s a selection meeting in the next 10 days,” added the 30-year-old Cook, whose 9,330 runs and 27 hundreds are both England Test records.
“The conditions in Abu Dhabi will be different to what we have just played in here where it nipped all over. I’d love someone to jump out and nail that slot.
“Adam didn’t quite score the amount of runs he’d liked to have done (this season) but he played a major part in the side — he was a brilliant catcher.
“He’s obviously scored a lot of runs for Yorkshire over the last couple of years and he’s gone in his first seven Test matches and found it tough against two very good attacks, and yet he’s scored a hundred in one of them.
“The selectors have tough calls. They have made some big calls in the summer and were proved right.”