Ben Foakes has been dropped for England’s one-off Test against Ireland at Lord’s next month, paving the way for Jonny Bairstow’s return as wicketkeeper ahead of this summer’s Ashes.
Despite being regarded as one of the world’s best glovemen and averaging 38.9 with the bat under Test captain Ben Stokes, Foakes is out in the cold with Bairstow taking his spot in a 15-strong squad.
Rob Key, England’s managing director for men’s cricket, said: “It was a seriously tough decision to leave Ben Foakes out of the squad.
“He has been excellent for England in the last year, but Jonny Bairstow is one of the best players in the world whose performances last summer epitomised what we are about.”
There was little doubt Bairstow would come back in after amassing six hundreds in a breathtaking 2022 before breaking his leg in three places in an accident on a golf tee, which sidelined him for 10 months.
How England would accommodate him was the key question with fellow Yorkshireman Harry Brook amassing four centuries over the winter in the number five spot Bairstow had seemingly made his own.
Theories abounded that Zak Crawley could make way as England sought to fit eight options into seven places but the under-pressure opener retained his position, alongside Ben Duckett, for a Test that gets under way on June 1 and acts as a tune-up for five much-awaited contests against Australia.
Bairstow, who has kept in two matches for Yorkshire since returning from injury, is set to slot in at number seven, with his attacking approach seemingly more in-tune with England’s set-up under Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum than that of Foakes, whose strike-rate is under 50 in Tests.
As expected, James Anderson keeps his place in the squad despite suffering a mild strain to his right groin last week. England will continue to monitor Anderson and a decision about whether to field their record wicket-taker in the summer’s curtain-raiser will be made nearer to the time.
England have been hit with further injuries to Jofra Archer and Olly Stone, leaving Mark Wood as their only express pace option but fellow fast bowler Chris Woakes, who has taken 94 wickets at 22.63 in home conditions and 27 at 11.33 at Lord’s, is brought back in for the first time since March last year.
Stuart Broad, Ollie Robinson and the recalled Matthew Potts provide the other specialist seam options.
Perhaps because of these fitness doubts rumbling on, Ollie Pope has been officially announced as Test vice-captain with immediate effect.
England men’s Test squad to face Ireland at Lord’s from June 1-4: B Stokes (captain), J Anderson, J Bairstow, S Broad, H Brook, Z Crawley, B Duckett, D Lawrence, J Leach, O Pope, M Potts, O Robinson, J Root, C Woakes, M Wood.