Geoffrey Boycott has called for England to drop Ben Foakes and give the gloves to Jonny Bairstow in order to make space for Harry Brook in their Test XI.
Brook has been in sensational form across formats this summer, but is yet to make his Test debut. The Yorkshireman has scored 967 runs at 107.44 in the County Championship this season, also making a century in England Lions’ innings victory over South Africa ahead of the ongoing Test series.
However, with Ollie Pope, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow all making centuries at No.3, No.4 and No.5 this summer, and Ben Stokes, the captain, at No.6, there is no obvious route for Brook into the side. Boycott has therefore suggested dropping Foakes and handing wicketkeeping duties to Bairstow in order to make room for the in-form right-hander.
“England’s batting would be stronger if Bairstow took the gloves instead of Foakes and that would make space for Harry Brook, who has not had a chance yet,” the former England opener wrote for the Telegraph. “It is alright telling me that Foakes is a good keeper. But he is not too clever against short, fast bowling. Bairstow has been a good keeper for England anyway.”
Foakes’ summer started off strongly, making 32 in an unbroken century stand with Root to seal victory in the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s, before adding a half-century in the first innings of the second New Zealand Test. However, his form has since tailed off, with two ducks and a score of six in his last three innings. He has an average of 22.60 this summer.
England may be reluctant to alter Bairstow’s current role in the side, given his improvement as a specialist batter. Bairstow has made four centuries this summer, averaging in excess of 70, as well as making hundreds earlier this year in Australia and West Indies. However, he has had success before as a wicketkeeper in Test cricket, and averages slightly more with the gloves than without.
Boycott was critical of England’s aggressive approach against South Africa, which saw the hosts succumb by an innings, ending a streak of four consecutive Test wins.
“If England keep going gung ho at top-class fast bowlers, bowling 90mph, then most of the time there will only be one winner – and it will not be our batsmen,” he said. “It is not a crime to defend or be patient and see off the new ball, or for middle order batsmen to play themselves in before they start to attack. It is what people have been doing for 200 years and it seemed to work pretty well for a reason.
“Surely England have to adapt to conditions, the quality of the bowling, or the situation of a match. Hell, this England team are not even a good batting side, yet they expect to smash the best bowlers around.”
The second Test against South Africa begins on Thursday, August 25 at Old Trafford.