Harsh omissions, freak injuries and match-winning hundreds – A timeline of Ben Foakes’ England career so far
Ben Foakes’ exclusion from England’s Test squad to face Ireland next month is another chapter in a stop-start international career.
He made a match-winning hundred on Test debut in Sri Lanka but was dropped just five Tests later. His next cap was two years later, but after a low-scoring series in India – where every England batter struggled – he was left out of the side for another 12 months.
The 30-year-old’s first extended run in the side saw him become a vital cog in Ben Stokes’ side, the England captain named him the best wicketkeeper in the world last June, but he has now been left out again to allow for Jonny Bairstow’s return, despite scoring one hundred and two fifties in his past seven innings.
Here is a timeline of his England career to date that has seen England’s premier wicketkeeper play 20 Tests in over five years.
Sri Lanka vs England, 2018: 277 runs at 69, 1 x 100/1 x 50, 8 catches/2 stumpings
Foakes’ debut was hailed as the return of the pure wicketkeeper to Test cricket, a man picked for glovework first and runs second.
He showed in Galle he could thrive with both, scoring 107 in the first innings as no one else passed fifty before adding a run-a-ball 37 in the second as England set up a famous away win.
Another important contribution followed with 65* in Pallekele, as England won the series 3-0. Foakes was named player of the series after top scoring and picking up eight dismissals.
West Indies vs England, 2019: 55 runs at 14, 2 catches
Things started to go wrong for Foakes in the West Indies later that winter, as the wicketkeeper passed twenty just once in four innings and was dropped after two Tests with England 2-0 down. Despite finishing the Sri Lanka series as England’s leading run-scorer, Foakes batted at eight in a lop-sided England line-up that had just two frontline seamers in James Anderson and a young Sam Curran.
It was perhaps a harsh call as the Surrey man still averaged over 40 with the bat from his first five Tests, but England were keen to squeeze both Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow into the side after the latter’s hundred in Colombo.
Not for the last time, Foakes was dropped for the sake of balance rather than for his own wrongdoings, and he would not play another Test match for two years.
He admitted falling out of love with the game during his time out of the side, but returned in 2021 following a first winter off in over a decade.
India vs England, 2021, 78 runs at 16, 4 catches/ 3 stumpings
England’s often derided “rest and rotation” policy that aimed to ease the effect of Covid bubbles helped bring Foakes back into the side, as he replaced Jos Buttler for the second Test against India following a famous England win in Chennai.
He was the visitors’ top-scorer in the first innings as Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel bowled India to a 317-run victory, but the Surrey keeper struggled in the rest of the series as England were beaten heavily.
It looked as though he would be in line for a first home Test against New Zealand that summer, but a freak hamstring injury that came after he slipped on his socks in the changing room ruled him out of the series, with James Bracey playing in his place.
West Indies vs England, 2022, 96 runs at 19, 8 catches
Foakes had to wait another 12 months for a place in the squad but begun his longest run in the side back in the West Indies.
Jos Buttler lost his keeping place after a disappointing Ashes series, and Foakes returned for what would be the final tour of Joe Root’s England captaincy.
He failed to pass fifty across the three Tests as England lost 1-0, but did take eight catches and retained the confidence of incoming captain Ben Stokes that summer.
England vs New Zealand, 2022, 107 runs at 36, 1 x 50, 12 catches
More than four years after tonning up on debut in Sri Lanka, Foakes was finally given a home cap in the first Test against New Zealand.
He scored an important unbeaten 32 in the fourth innings as England chased 279 at Lord’s and heralded a new era of attacking cricket centred around Stokes and new coach Brendan McCullum.
The new captain labelled Foakes ‘the best wicketkeeper in the world’ after the Test, and his confidence was rewarded with a first innings fifty in the next Test and another red inker in a successful England chase.
It looked as though the keeper’s bad luck had resurfaced when he was replaced behind the stumps by Bairstow midway through the third Test after contracting Covid. Foakes then missed the following Test against India at Edgbaston before returning to the side for the home series against South Africa.
England vs South Africa, 2022, 133 runs at 44, 1 x 100, 14 catches
England’s last home series brought the very best out of Foakes, as he scored his maiden home Test hundred and continued to show why he is so highly rated as a gloveman.
His 183-run partnership with Stokes in the second Test helped take the hosts past 400 after struggling to 147-5 when the keeper arrived at the crease. It was a stand that decided the series, with England ultimately winning 2-1.
Foakes’ contribution, an unbeaten 113, came against one of the fiercest attacks in world cricket as he saw of the likes off Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi.
It was a knock that seemed to confirm Foakes’ importance to England, with his icy-veined calm at number seven an important check on the new aggressive philosophy from those above him in the order.
Pakistan vs England, 2022, 64 runs at 64, 1 x 50, 3 catches/ 1 stumping
He wouldn’t be Ben Foakes if his crowning moment wasn’t followed by another setback, and sure enough the keeper only played the last of England’s three Tests in Pakistan after being hit by a virus.
Foakes was fit to play the second game, but England opted to stick with Ollie Pope keeping in an attempt to pack the side with bowling options on lifeless surfaces.
He played an important role in his return for the final game, scoring 64 as England completed a famous whitewash.
New Zealand vs England, 2023, 124 runs at 31, 1 x 50, 6 catches
Foakes made a handy contribution in each innings as England won the first Test in Mount Maunganui, and looked to be playing the perfect knock to see them over the line in the second Test.
With England eight wickets down and needing seven to win after a rollercoaster of a chase, the keeper top edged a pull to fine leg off Tim Southee, and they went on to lose by one run when James Anderson was caught off Neil Wagner.
Despite averaging 39 in nine Test matches under Stokes, Foakes was not included in England’s Test squad to face Ireland at the start of June.
Bairstow’s return from injury left the selectors looking to squeeze eight cricketers into seven spots, and as has been the case before in his career, the Surrey man missed out.
Foakes averages 52 from six County Championship innings so far this summer, and if he is not recalled for the Ashes the 30-year-old could have a key role in deciding who wins Division One this season.