Jonny Bairstow ruled out of England duty after ‘freak accident’ on golf course

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Jonny Bairstow will miss England’s Test decider against South Africa this week and next month’s Twenty20 World Cup after sustaining a serious leg injury in a “freak accident” on the golf course.

Bairstow is understood to have slipped while approaching a tee box during a round at Pannal Golf Club near Harrogate, an innocuous incident that has left him requiring surgery and facing several months on the sidelines.

The 32-year-old will be badly missed by his country, having hit a career-best run of form in the Test arena and just been handed a crucial new role at next month’s T20 tournament in Australia.

Just six hours before the England and Wales Cricket Board announced his withdrawal, managing director Rob Key had included Bairstow in a 15-man squad for the event and named him as the team’s new opening batter.

With Jason Roy dropped following an extensive run of disappointing form, Key confirmed the selection panel had chosen to promote Bairstow to the top of the order having identified him as the best player in the country to partner captain Jos Buttler.

Those plans will now require hasty revision, though a reprieve for Roy appears unlikely. Instead, there is a real chance for his Surrey and Oval Invincibles team-mate Will Jacks to make a charge.

Jacks is in excellent form and has been included as one of five uncapped players in this month’s T20 tour of Pakistan, making him the front-runner.

More immediately, Bairstow’s absence is likely to lead to Harry Brook’s long-awaited Test debut at the Kia Oval on Thursday. He has been an unused squad member all summer, waiting for his opportunity, and should get his chance despite the addition of Ben Duckett as cover.

Following an ECB announcement about his injury, Bairstow took to Instagram, writing: “Unfortunately I am going to be unavailable for all games/tours in the immediate future. The reason being is that I have injured my lower leg in a freak accident and it shall need an operation.

“The injury came when I slipped on the golf course this morning. I am gutted and want to wish everyone for this week at The Oval all the best firstly, and the boys that are going to Australia for the T20 World Cup. Absolutely gutted! I will be back…”

England’s World Cup squad contained a number of fitness concerns, with Bairstow considered a safe bet. Mark Wood (elbow) and Chris Woakes (shoulder and knee) were both included despite missing the entire domestic season and last playing competitively during the Test tour of the West Indies in March.

Chris Jordan (finger), Liam Livingstone (ankle) and Buttler (calf) are all currently injured, with Moeen Ali stepping in as skipper at the start of the Pakistan tour, while Reece Topley made an early exit from The Hundred to protect his body.

Reflecting on those issues, Key said: “We are optimistic, I suppose, but that might not be the best way to look at things with the way injuries have gone this year. Let’s hope our luck changes.”

Shortly after he spoke, events up north were about to change things for the worse.

Brook’s likely elevation, which has been in the works for some time, means a relatively straightforward swap in Ben Stokes’ Test team, albeit robbing the side of a player who has scored six centuries in 2022 and averages 75.66 since the start of the season. Brook could well find himself in pole position for the three-match Test tour of Pakistan which follows in December too, with no guarantee that Bairstow will be back in contention by then.

Phil Salt is the likeliest immediate beneficiary for the T20 World Cup, with Jacks ready to push his own case. Key expressed sympathy with the axed Roy, who has been a mainstay of the white-ball set-up since the start of Eoin Morgan’s 2015 overhaul, but appeared a long way from a U-turn when he discussed the 32-year-old recent struggles.

Jason Roy
Jason Roy has been left out of the T20 World Cup squad (Kieran Cleeves/PA)

“It’s unfortunate timing, but he’s hit a bad patch of form at the worst time,” he said.

“The game is about confidence as much as anything else. We’d be taking a gamble on him finding form. He was obviously very disappointed, I think ‘gutted’ was the phrase he used. He wanted to make sure this wasn’t the end.

“I certainly don’t think that this is the end of Jason Roy. I don’t see it by any stretch that his T20 career is over. It just leaves him in a place where he has to go and find form.”

England named three travelling standby players for the World Cup – pace bowlers Tymal Mills and Richard Gleeson as well as spinner Liam Dawson – with Jordan Cox, Luke Wood, Tom Helm and Olly Stone completing the uncapped quintet alongside Jacks.

England’s T20 World Cup squad: J Buttler (c), M Ali, J Bairstow, H Brook, S Curran, C Jordan, L Livingstone, D Malan, A Rashid, P Salt, B Stokes, R Topley, D Willey, C Woakes, M Wood.

England’s T20 squad to tour Pakistan: J Buttler (c), M Ali, H Brook, J Cox, S Curran, B Duckett, L Dawson, R Gleeson, T Helm, W Jacks, D Malan, A Rashid, P Salt, O Stone, R Topley, D Willey, C Woakes, L Wood, M Wood.