England wicketkeeper Ben Foakes fails to stress Jonny Bairstow may replace him on the Test side return | Cricket News

England wicketkeeper Ben Foakes fails to stress Jonny Bairstow may replace him on the Test side return | Cricket News

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Ben Foakes is undeterred by the prospect of Jonny Bairstow’s return while continuing to assert his position as England’s sure hand.

After the 10th Test victory of 11 in last week’s day/night clash against New Zealand at Mount Maunganui, captain Ben Stokes only has the decision of who makes the cut if everyone is fit and available.

Bowling stocks are already poised to burst as the Ashes loom in sight, with the likes of Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes all vying to join the current roster, but an even trickier decision awaits in the top seven.

Bairstow is effectively guaranteed a spot as he recovers from the badly broken leg he suffered at the end of a career-best summer in 2022, but his comeback is unlikely to come at the expense of Harry Brook, who has been a revelation since joining in 5th place and already looks like a fixture.

With that in mind, he would return to wicketkeeping on a way back to Bairstow – as he has done in 49 of his 89 England caps – with Foakes as collateral damage.

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Former England captain Michael Atherton says Harry Brooks’ performances have created a “real problem” for Test selectors as Jonny Bairstow’s return to fitness looms large

And while Stokes would be reluctant to leave out someone he has repeatedly called the best glove man in the world, Foakes sat in Pakistan twice before Christmas to level the squad. Foakes is aware of the debate but has little interest in questioning the outcome.

“Of course you’ll think about things, but at the stage I’m at there’s no point in worrying about it,” he said as England arrived in Wellington for Friday’s crucial second Test.

“I’m in good shape in my career and I’m just trying to enjoy that rather than fret about what else might happen.

“In international cricket you always go through certain phases. There have been so many times in my career that I’ve been like, ‘Oh, this is going to happen, this is going to happen,’ and it never has, so there’s no point in worrying about it.

“My trip to England was kind of a roller coaster from day one and I’ve had many times off the team where I’ve been like, ‘How do I get back in?’ and things like that, but I think thinking about it doesn’t help my game at all.”

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Ben Stokes praised England’s “brave” performance as his side beat New Zealand in the first Test, while Tim Southee heaped praise on James Anderson and Stuart Broad

At the moment, Foakes is well served when he lets his performances do the talking.

At Mount Maunganui he was usually neat behind the stumps and even took on James Anderson and Stuart Broad as they sipped around the pink kookaburra. But what was most noticeable was his calmness on the kink, especially when he hit a controlled 51 in an otherwise explosive batting show on day three.

While his top-flight teammates at times looked like a six-hit contest, he stayed in his lane and helped lead the innings to the final session when they were able to bowl under lights against New Zealand.

Foakes admits he doesn’t have the attacking range to bet on England’s super-aggressive creed but embraces the value of his own.

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Atherton believes Stokes sees Anderson and Broad as an ‘integral’ part of the England team

“I don’t think it’s smart for me to try to be Ben Stokes or Harry Brook. I’m not, as you would say, ‘Bazball,'” he said, co-opting short for head coach Brendon McCullum’s preferred style.

“I can’t do what a lot of these guys do. If I did that from ball one, I’d just get out, so there’s no point in trying. I think almost stabilizing it in the midst of the carnage can sometimes work to bridge the gap between our explosive launches and tail slapping, I need to hit differently.

“It’s about staying true to myself. Of course I’m working on the nets to expand my game and things like that, but I’m still kind of revolving around my core game. You look at the scoreboard with your batting average, you want to keep it over 50 but it’s a strength of mine to play cricket a little more normally.”

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