Bairstow Is Back, Again

New writer Isaac Rawcliffe has some thoughts on England’s squad for the 1st Test against India. What do you make of the names selected?

England have announced a 17 man squad for the first Test against India and there are some notable exclusions as well as one very notable inclusion. The squad reads as follows: Joe Root (capt), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood. Lots of familiar faces there and lots to dissect in terms of a potential starting XI.

The main talking point is a return to the Test squad for Jonny Bairstow for what feels like the millionth time. It was thought by fans and pundits that Bairstow’s final chance had come against India earlier in the year in which it looked like he could have registered more ducks than runs. However, it appears that the selectors have placed their faith in him once again.

Since 2018, Bairstow has scored 1,110 runs in Test cricket from 47 innings at an average of 24.70 with 2 centuries. These numbers show that he has had more than an adequate chance to prove himself as a quality first choice option in the middle order but has failed to deliver substantial results.

The sorry looking figures in Test cricket are explained if you look at his ODI stats in the same timeframe: 2,506 runs from 53 innings at an average of 47.30 with 9 centuries. Surely the selectors have to accept the fact that Bairstow has sacrificed his Test technique and skillset in order to become one of the best white ball players in the world?

The selectors have said that he’s been chosen as the backup wicketkeeper given Foakes’ injury, but there are plenty of other options lying about the county circuit currently who could fill the role such as Ben Cox, Alex Davies and John Simpson to name a few.

One also has to feel sorry for 24 year old James Bracey. He has plied his trade as a pure batsman at number 3 with brilliant results for Gloucestershire in the last few years, but was drafted into the most recent England series against New Zealand as the primary gloveman and batting at 7. As expected, the returns were pretty miserable for Bracey, failing to reach double figures with the bat and having a torrid time behind the stumps. It was atrocious man management from England which will surely damage a highly promising red ball prospect. And now he has been shunned in favour of another Bairstow lifeline.

Looking at the rest of the squad, it’s good to see Haseeb Hameed back given all he’s gone through since his debut as a 19 year old back in 2016. It’s unlikely that Hameed will displace either of Sibley or Burns at the very top of the order, but there could be an opportunity at number 3 given Zak Crawley’s struggles in the New Zealand series and a desperate need for some stability in that number 3 spot. We don’t want Joe Root walking into bat in the 5th over again.

Hameed made a century for the County Select Squad against a virtually full strength Indian bowling attack at Durham this week. This was hugely encouraging and it surely bolstered his chances of a stunning return to the Test side even further.

© David Morton

In the bowling department, it was somewhat disappointing to see Matt Parkinson overlooked for the Test squad given his great first class stats and the fact he looked in great rhythm in the One Day and T20 series. His bowling will translate well to the Test game as well: he spins the ball more than any England spinner in the last 20 years and gives the ball such tremendous flight and dip that he would surely be a nightmare for most batsman to face, particularly later on in a match.

England have instead gone with Dom Bess who has been bowling better for Yorkshire than he did for England back in the winter. Bess does give the option of batting depth as opposed to Parkinson, but it is hard to see where he outperforms him with the ball in hand. Ultimately, Jack Leach should be the first choice spinner and thankfully has been included, but it would have been nice to see the selectors put more faith in Parkinson in the red ball game.

Overall, the squad hasn’t raised too many eyebrows – only the return of Bairstow and the exclusion of Chris Woakes due to injury – but it will be interesting to see who makes the starting XI come the morning of the first Test. There will be a tussle between Hameed and Crawley for the number 3 spot, and also between Sam Curran and Ollie Robinson for the third seamer option at number 8.

Possible XI: Burns, Sibley, Crawley/Hameed, Root (c), Stokes, Pope, Buttler (wk), Robinson/Curran, Leach, Broad, Anderson

Isaac Rawcliffe

You can read more of Isaac’s work Blood, Sweat & Spears.


  • Excellent post. I am mystified by the inclusions of Bairstow and Bess. I do not see England selecting two spinners on a home pitch, and the only current candidate for the role of sole spinner is Jack Leach.

    • I agree. Interesting post. I too find it difficult to explain Bess and Bairstow and even more so after seeing the difference Foakes and Simpson have made, the absence of a specialist wicket keeper. It makes the Bracey selection look even more ridiculous than it did at the time. I agree about Parkinson who surely offers more potential than Bess. As you say, we’re unlikely to play two spinners – I can’t say I’ve been impressed by how Silverwood has handled Leach.

  • I’m surprised about Bairstow, too. I suppose in the absence of obvious alternatives the selectors have gone for someone who at least has done it in the past, as opposed to someone who never has, but yet again it does seem that some players get dozens of chances and others never get any (James Hildreth never played a Test….) I think Hameed should play in place of whoever looks worse in the nets out of Crawley or Sibley. I doubt Broad and Anderson will play together.

  • I don’t actually mind the inclusion of Bairstow in this specific instance. He’s been picked as a backup keeper – a role he performed well until Ed Smith replaced him with Jos Buttler on a whim. Even to this day, Bairstow’s record as a batsman/keeper is superior to Buttler’s. In my opinion it was the wrong move, an unfair move, and it did a lot of damage to Jonny’s confidence. Consequently, with Foakes being injured, I don’t mind them going in this direction.

    Having said that, it does seem as though some players (the inner circle) are never really dropped. They’re only ever rested to be brought back again and again. Therefore, I think Jonny’s recall looks bad. In fact, if he was being picked as a pure batsman, then I’d be extremely critical.

    I think the recall of Bess could end up being a red herring as Chris Silverwood simply hates picking spinners. It must be 50:50 whether even Leach plays. Instead he’ll probably go with his usual diet of 5 seamers. It’s one of the reasons why I have little faith in his abilities as a coach. Heaven knows why they put him in ultimate charge of selection. Maybe they picked Jonny because Silverwood has seen sod all of the other candidates, as he can’t have much time to watch county cricket. It’s all very well relying on scouts, but when it’s your head on the chopping block it’s natural to go with what you know, especially after the Bracey debacle.

  • England playing India again? There hasn’t been a decent series between these two for a decade. I’m sick of them and won’t be watching.

    The home side will probably produce a half-fair pitch early on but if it looks like they aren’t going to win then the overt manipulation usually kicks in. In England’s case that means the seamers win games on green tops and then England go away to Australia and Asia and wonder why they’re hopeless. Rinse and repeat.

    The series is all about covering the ECB’s finances for the money they’ve [insert rude phrase] on [insert rude phrase]. Perhaps they could just televise the financial transaction and skip the actual play?

    • I’ve managed to completely avoid the [insert rude phrase] thus far despite the BBC trying to force feed it to me. Enjoying the RLC though!

  • Well any alligance to England went after the NZ Tests and the mess the ECB seem determined to make of English Cricket.
    Bairstow? Wouldn’t give him house room or Bess for that matter. Although in his defence (Bess) he was treated appalingly by England. Top 3? No idea apart from Burns. They’ll still be 30/3 whoever plays. No technique for the long game.

  • As in any organisation, some are “in” whereas others are “out”, irrespective of performance. The old “it’s not what you know…” syndrome. Additionally, Parkinson is clearly a far better bowler than Bess, but the selectors just don’t trust the batting, so they are again trying to prop it up by weakening the bowling. Madness.

  • When Silverwood first came on the scene and was selecting more red ball type players like Sibley and Crawley, especially in South Africa I was more optimistic, but he has certainly seemed like a man with strange ideas since, especially with his bowling selections in India.
    Don’t understand his reluctance to play Leach, who has been the only spinner we’ve had recently capable of holding an end up to give the seamers a break and he’s left handed, spinning the ball away from the predominantly right handed Indian batsmen. Bess is a predictable inclusion after his decent start to the season as even bowling indifferently he still took wickets, something Leach has struggled with initially, especially against the Aussies on helpful pitches. Agree with disappointment about the exclusion of Parkinson as he’s bowled pretty well in the one dayers. Hope Hameed gets a shot at some point, as he’s been knocking on the door a long time and appears a natural for the longer game.
    Bairstow is another predictable as back up for a no more than competent Buttler, who seems undroppable in any format at the moment. There’s plenty of better keepers out there who can bat, but it’s the devil you know that illustrates the paucity of ideas, even though he struggled in the one dayers.
    Will be interesting to see whether Stokes plays purely as a batsmen having bowled so few overs in the one dayers and whether Root is selected as the back up spinner, something he’s looked pretty ineffective as, especially against batsmen used to the turning ball.
    Should still be a good series though. Am looking forward to it.

  • I expect Crawley to be picked over Hameed and Curran over Robinson in order to add depth to their batting lineup.

  • When oh when are we going to find that match winning spinner?
    Peter Drake
    Teacher playwright

  • I am waiting for the incriminating pictures that Bairstow has in his possession. The only possible explanation why he is picked. Picking tumbleweed over Bairstow would probably strengthen England. The one advantage that Bairstow has for the ECB is the reduced risk of having to pay someone remotely competent in his stead.

    As for Bess, too soon to recall. I’d be surprised if Leach gets more than 1 Test this series – and unless England get assistance from the weather gods / engage in blatant pitch doctoring for the seamers, he should play all five of them of course. A random number generator would probably do a better job than Silverwood.

  • Butler has had a calf injury, do we think that he may be selected as a specialist batsman with JB keeping?
    Personally I would not have picked Bairstow in the squad. I also still doubt that Butler is a test keeper or batsman which I appreciate is an unpopular minority view.

    • Andrew.
      I’m not sure it is a minority view. Those who watch county cricket regularly know that 1. Buttler is a poor keeper and has only 2 test centuries 2. Bairstow is a bit better keeper but is suspect batting wise.
      Bracey was thrown in at the deep end earlier but he is not the best of the rest.
      I think ALL cricket watchers know that Foakes is by far the best keeper and can also bat but due to injury he’s not available. However, I’m certain there are others who could be considered.


copywriter copywriting