Jonny Bairstow is set to be selected as England’s wicketkeeper for the Ashes and regain the Test gloves for the first time since 2021, with Ben Foakes out in the cold.
Since being recalled last year, Foakes has been a hugely valued member of the England set-up. After long discussions about his position, England look poised to opt for Bairstow as the keeper-batsman at No 7. Foakes could now be omitted from the squad to face Ireland at Lord’s on June 1 – which is announced today.
England have a desire to keep as much continuity as possible this summer, minimising changes in the squad from match-to-match. Besides the fast bowling group, who are likely to be rotated to manage their workloads, England want a settled side throughout the Test summer.
In 20 Tests for England, Foakes has averaged 32.2 and has scored two centuries – the first in Sri Lanka in 2018 and against South Africa last year. His strike rate, 49, is not a natural fit with England’s ‘Bazball’ style and Foakes himself has described how he has made conscious attempts to develop his attacking game.
There have never been any questions over his wicketkeeping, which Test captain Ben Stokes has hailed as the best in the world. Even if he plays no part in the six Tests this summer, against Ireland and Australia, Foakes might well be involved in the five-Test series in India early next year, with his qualities as a keeper regarded as particularly important in conditions that favour spin bowling.
After a stunning 2022, which included six Test centuries, there was never any question over Bairstow regaining his berth in the side. Before breaking his leg in a freak golf accident he batted at number five, as a specialist batsman. But Harry Brook’s remarkable form over the Test winter – four centuries in five matches – means England are keen for him to bat at five this summer.
As Telegraph Sport first revealed, England wanted Bairstow to take the gloves for Yorkshire when he made his first-class return this summer, which he was happy to do. Bairstow has always made his willingness to keep wicket for England in Test matches clear.
His aggressive approach is considered an ideal fit at number seven, especially with concerns over the length of England’s tail, and the possibility that the wicketkeeper might be required to score quick runs before the side are bowled out. Bairstow has also impressed with the gloves in his two County Championship matches for Yorkshire so far this season.
Despite his stellar 2022, Bairstow still averages slightly more when keeping wicket for England than when picked as a specialist batsman – 37.4, rather than 36.6. He last kept wicket for England in 2021, filling in on a one-off basis while Jos Buttler was injured. He stopped being the incumbent keeper after the 2019 Ashes but has kept wicket in 49 Tests.
After England’s last Test, the agonising one-run defeat to New Zealand when Foakes’s second innings 35 almost took hsi side to victory, head coach Brendon McCullum confirmed that Bairstow would return to the side in some capacity.
McCullum said: “What we can’t do is try and crowbar people in,” seemingly ruling Bairstow out of slotting in as opener, where he has never previously batted in Test cricket.