NASSER HUSSAIN: Foakes has to be given a run as England’s wicketkeeper
Ben Foakes has to be given a run as England’s wicketkeeper… two days is not usually enough to make judgment but he has enjoyed a remarkable start
- Ben Foakes looked really impressive in his first Test for England in Sri Lanka
- He deserves to keep spot as wicketkeeper after performing with bat and gloves
- I don’t see Moeen Ali as a long-term No 3, so Jonny Bairstow could still fit in side
- Bairstow, though, does need to sort out his technique against the red ball
- REPORT: England in control of first Test in Sri Lanka after bowling hosts for 203
Two days is not usually enough to make a judgment about whether a bloke’s going to succeed in Test cricket, but from what I’ve seen of Ben Foakes, he has to be given a run in the side as England’s wicketkeeper.
I said during the summer that it wouldn’t have been fair or right to take the gloves off Jonny Bairstow, because he was a better keeper than Jos Buttler. And I feel now, after the first two days in Galle, that it wouldn’t be fair or right to take the gloves off Foakes for the second Test in Kandy.
He really has looked impressive. To come in for your first Test innings in such alien conditions, and with your team in such trouble, and to show such calm, was a remarkable effort. And then he looks very tidy behind the stumps, as those who have watched him regularly at Surrey said he would.
Ben Foakes has enjoyed an impressive start to life as an England Test player against Sri Lanka
Foakes looks very tidy behind the stumps, and was brilliant with the bat in his hand in Galle
Sometimes an injury opens the door for someone else, and Foakes has come bursting through. It’s especially the case for the wicketkeeper, because there’s only one of you. It’s harsh on Bairstow, but this is international sport.
So while I wouldn’t have changed the wicketkeeping role during the summer, I would now. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room for Bairstow in the team. Far from it.
We’ve seen how he reinvented himself with great success as a one-day opener, and I’d make the point to him that there’s still a vacancy in England’s Test top order.
I accept the argument that when a guy who is used to keeping wicket becomes a specialist batsman, he loses a bit of a comfort blanket: fail with the bat, and you can always get into the game with the gloves. Remove those gloves, and the pressure increases on you to get runs.
The new man celebrates after reaching his century on day two of his England Test debut
Jonny Bairstow may now face a fight for the gloves after Foakes’ stellar wicketkeeping debut
But Bairstow is no novice. He’s played 59 Tests now, and has five centuries. His 50-over form shows he’s perfectly capable of flourishing without the gloves, because Buttler keeps wicket for the one-day side.
That’s the carrot I’d dangle in front of Bairstow now, especially because I don’t see Moeen Ali as a long-term No 3, certainly not in English conditions anyway. Whether Joe Root moves back to No 3, leaving a vacancy at No 4, or Bairstow has a go at No 3 himself, the fact is that, come the summer, there will probably be a place up for grabs. And Bairstow has the class to fill it.
The one thing he needs to sort out – and it’s something he’s been a bit stubborn about – is his technique against the red ball. Because he’s had success in white-ball cricket staying leg side of the ball, the habit has crept into his long-form batting, and we saw against India in the summer how that resulted in him getting bowled more, or nicking off.
Nasser Hussain doesn’t see Moeen Ali as long-term No 3 so Bairstow could slot in up the order
Foakes plays a shot at Galle International Stadium during his excellent batting performance
He must also realise that England aren’t going to need six bowlers all the time, as they have here – and that the three spinners they’re playing at Galle will become one spinner back home.
My point is that this England side currently looks a batsman light. If he’s got the desire and the will, Bairstow can fill the hole.
Of course, Foakes may return to England and find that bowlers with the Dukes ball manage to exploit some technical weakness that hasn’t been exposed in county cricket. What we’ve seen so far is the smallest of sample sizes.
But my gut feel is that Foakes has done enough to stay in the side. It’s now up to Bairstow to prove that he can play a role too.
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