England coach Trevor Bayliss has targeted finalising his top three for the Ashes during the Test series in the West Indies, which begins on Wednesday.
England have not had a settled top order in recent years, with Keaton Jennings and Rory Burns opening during the tour of Sri Lanka. Jonny Bairstow replaced Ben Stokes at three in the final match of the series.
“It’s no secret that’s what we have been trying to find over the past few years,” Trevor Bayliss Said.
“We’re starting to see some guys tick those boxes and make those positions their own.”
Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss opened the batting together for England in 71 Tests, with Jonathan Trott playing 46 of his 52 Tests at number three between 2009-13.
However, after Strauss’ retirement in 2012, Cook had 12 different opening partners before retiring himself in september.
Jennings and Burns had partnerships of 10, 60, 12, 22 and three in their five innings during the Sri Lanka tour, which England won 3-0. Surrey opener Burns has scored 155 runs in his first six Test innings and made 68 in the second warm-up match of the Caribbean tour.
Jennings, who made an unbeaten 146 in the second Test in Pallekele, averages 26 from 28 Test innings and has scored a combined 17 runs in the two warm-up matches.
“They’ve certainly done as well as anyone else has over the past few years,” Trevor Bayliss added.
“Hopefully they can kick on to another level and this series will be another opportunity for those guys.” With captain Joe Root’s preference to bat at four, the number three spot has also been under scrutiny.
Bairstow made a century in his first Test innings in that role in Sri Lanka and made 98 in the final warm-up game.
The wicketkeeper played in Sri Lanka as a specialist batsman with Ben Foakes, who made a century on debut, taking the gloves.
The first Test against West Indies gets under way in Barbados on Wednesday, with the second Test starting on 31 January and the third on 9 February. They are followed by five one-day internationals and three Twenty20 matches.
The five-match Ashes series begins on 1 August at Lord’s after a busy home summer that includes the 50-over World Cup. England’s success in Sri Lanka was their first Test series victory away from home since beating South Africa in 2016.
West Indies are on a four-match losing streak, having not won a series against one of the top eight Test nations since 2012.
However, the tourists have not won either of their past two Test series in the Caribbean and were only 2-1 winners against the Windies in the 2017 home series, in which Jason Holder’s team chased down 322 at Headingley to win a Test in England for the first time in 17 years.
“It’s a bit of a different pressure but West Indies have had some decent results over the past 12 to 18 months,” said Trevor Bayliss.
“They beat us in a Test match not all that long ago, so I’m sure that will be fresh in the minds. “I know full well that playing away from home against any Test nation is not easy. We’ll have to play some good cricket to win.”