England retain Jonny Bairstow in unchanged squad for fourth Ashes Test
England have moved early to throw their backing behind Jonny Bairstow, retaining the wicketkeeper for next week’s fourth Ashes Test at Emirates Old Trafford.
The selectors have resisted the temptation to send a mid-series call out to Surrey’s Ben Foakes, with Bairstow retained as the only gloveman in an unchanged 14-man squad.
The Yorkshireman has endured a difficult series behind the stumps, missing eight chances of varying difficulty in the first three games, leading to calls for Foakes to be restored.
But England have nipped such talk in the bud at the earliest opportunity by naming the same group for next Wednesday’s clash in Manchester, another must-win for the hosts who are 2-1 down with two to play following their victory over Australia at Headingley.
Foakes has repeatedly been hailed as the best wicketkeeper in the world by captain Ben Stokes, but the 30-year-old was the odd man out at the start of the summer when Bairstow’s return to fitness following a badly broken leg and the rise of Harry Brook left England with a dilemma.
Bairstow’s movement has not looked as sharp since returning from injury, hardly any surprise after he sustained three separate fractures in his left leg, ligament damage and a dislocated ankle, but he retains the backing of a hierarchy who like to stick to their guns when it comes to personnel.
He has only fired once with the bat in the current Ashes series, making a run-a-ball 78 on the first day of the series, but he has shown before just how dangerous he can be when the mood is with him.
He was England’s Test player of the year in 2022, setting the tone for the ‘Bazball’ era with four exhilarating hundreds last summer. Head coach Brendon McCullum and Stokes both promised his place would be kept open when he suffered his freak accident on a golf course and have been as good as their word.
He will now be hoping to pay that faith back at Old Trafford. Ollie Robinson also takes his place in the 14 despite back spasms rendering him a peripheral figure in the previous match.
Robinson will join up with the side and is being monitored by the medical team, but is favourite to make way for the return of record wicket-taker James Anderson at his home ground.