Ollie Pope is relishing his new role as England’s number three and believes he has done enough to make it his permanent job.
England’s new-look Test leadership team of captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum promoted the 24-year-old to the third spot ahead of the series with New Zealand in June, and Pope announced his arrival with a second Test ton at Trent Bridge.
The Surrey right-hander hopes to replicate his success when the squad begin their deciding contest with South Africa on Thursday, but reckons his probationary period might already be over.
“I’d like to think so,” said Pope. “We don’t talk about those things too much, but the feedback I’ve got has been great and I think the confidence that is given from the top from McCullum and Stokes has been great as well, so hopefully that can keep helping me build into that spot and I’m going into this with a bit of a better mindset.
“I’m not looking too far ahead, I’m just trying to focus on each ball and each innings as it comes. It’s a bit of a cliche, but I think that’s what I’ve realised over this summer. That’s working well for me. Rather than playi a game that’s two months away, worry about the here and the now, and that’s probably the best thing to do as a cricketer, or any sport really.”
England will be without Jonny Bairstow when the series resumes after a freak lower-leg injury sustained slipping over a tee whilst playing golf ruled him out of contention.
Pope said: “Of course we’re going to miss him, but at the same time we’ve got enough guys who have been around a long time now to feed off each other, and the energy has been so good around the lads.
You can't keep this guy down 😤
He'll be back. pic.twitter.com/TXVmoldTaB
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) September 2, 2022
“I’m sure we’ll make up for his lost voice in the field especially, but it’s obviously gutting that he’s not here, because it would be a great way for him to finish the summer after (the way) he’s played.
“It’s obviously disappointing for us all, obviously a freak incident took place, and he’s had an amazing summer, he’s been amazing to watch, he’s been great to be around the lads but it also provides a great opportunity for whoever is coming in, so that’s an exciting chance as well.”
That chance seems all but certain to be handed to Yorkshire’s Harry Brook, Pope’s team-mate at England U19 level, a squad Brook once captained.
An unexpected Test debut for the 23-year-old, who earned his first senior T20 cap in January against the West Indies, is something Pope believes Brook is more than ready to handle.
He added: “He is a seriously good player. He’s obviously been in ridiculous form this season, he’s averaged over 100-odd in the championship and he’s 100 per cent got the game to go out and take that into Test cricket. He’s got the mindset as well.
“He impresses me in how chilled he is in how he goes about his training and how he goes about his cricket, and assuming he gets the nod this week then it’s not going to faze him too much and I’m sure he’ll go out and play to the best of his ability.”