Another English cricket season is around the corner (some pre-season warm up fixtures are already taking place), and it is a biggie – the Aussies will be touring later this summer. My title comes from a question that talk sport radio put out on twitter this morning, and I am using this post to give it a detailed answer – the brief answer is the single word “no”.
Since Ben Stokes took over the captaincy the England test team has fared exceedingly well, and the side’s unprecedented 3-0 sweep of the series in Pakistan plus the subsequent 1-1 draw in New Zealand (with the second game lost by one run, Stokes going uncompromisingly for the win rather than shut the game down to secure the series) were both achieved without Bairstow. The only real vacancy in the batting order is at the top, where Crawley’s returns continue to be utterly inadequate for a test match opening batter. Foakes, the current keeper, played important roles with the bat in several of the wins and is without any shadow of a doubt well clear of Bairstow as a keeper. The bowling is also strong, although the spin department remains a concern. Even there, with Rehan Ahmed showing positive signs in Pakistan, the trend is upwards.
BAIRSTOW IN TEST CRICKET
While in the period immediately before injury forced his withdrawal from the side Bairstow was in absolutely white hot form with the bat, his test history, which dates back to 2012, is of blowing hot and cold, with the latter more frequently the case. He is apparently not happy with the notion of opening in test cricket, though he does so in both forms of limited overs cricket. For me the middle order is strong with the question being who to leave out. One way to accommodate Bairstow is to have Stokes, who certainly has the technical wherewithal to do so move up to open the batting, creating a middle order slot for Bairstow (WG Rumblepants suggested this on twitter in response to the talk sport radio query). None of Pope, Root, Brook or Stokes are dispensable, and I regard the notion of dropping Foakes, already on the receiving end of scurvy treatment from England selectors since his international debut in 2018, as an outrage.
THE ENGLAND TEST SIDE GOING FORWARD
With the powerful batting outlined above, plus Foakes as keeper, a slew of fine seamers available, plus outright pacers in the form of Wood, Archer and possibly Stone in the wings, and Leach and Ahmed available to bowl spin, plus Will Jacks on the fringes as a batter who bowls spin on the side, and a few county players knocking on the doors (a good start to the season for Ben Compton would certainly force the selectors to sit up an take notice to name but one) the truth is that the England test side does not need to perform mental gymnastics to find a way to accommodate an ageing middle order batter with a history of inconsistency at the highest level – they would do better to move forwards without him.
To put it mildly the weather these last few days has been less than ideal for photography, but I do have a small gallery of recent captures to share…