Jonny Bairstow has signalled that he is up for the fight when it comes to the Test wicketkeeper position, having lost the gloves to Ben Foakes in Sri Lanka. Foakes was the beneficiary after Bairstow rolled an ankle during the one-day series and has impressed behind the stumps and with the bat as England clinched the three-Test series with one to play.
England’s coach, Trevor Bayliss, hinted that Bairstow’s best route back into the side may be as a specialist batsman, but the Yorkshireman is not ready to give up keeping after making big improvements in the role he had held since late 2015.
Bairstow, who suffered ankle ligament damage, was deemed fit for the second Test in Pallekele but omitted by England as they went with an unchanged side. However, Bairstow said he would be “pushing as hard as possible” to break back into the XI for the final match in Colombo, starting on Friday.
“I’ve worked hard and had that spot for two-and-a-half years, and over the 40-or-so Tests I think it is my overall average is about 42, so to do that – keep wicket, bat at five or six or seven, in all different conditions – I’m very proud of that,” Bairstow told Talksport.
“Yes, [Foakes] came in and has played well. Look, selection is above my pay grade that’s why you want to be giving other people headaches with that. I’m training hard, hitting the ball nicely in the nets and I’d like to think people know that in the background I’ll be pushing as hard as possible to be playing this week.”
One solution might be for England to try Bairstow at No. 3, a position that has caused perennial issues since the retirement of Jonathan Trott. Moeen Ali batted there in Galle, while Ben Stokes did so in the first innings in Pallekele – before Jack Leach’s stint as a nightwatchman opener pushed Keaton Jennings down to three – but with Sam Curran an injury doubt, England could make a change to the balance of the side.
While Bairstow’s situation arose through an injury sustained during England’s favoured warm-up football matches, he said it was just as likely to have happened tripping over a boundary rope.
“I didn’t really know how bad it was until the scan results came back and saw the extent of what had happened,” he said. “But it wasn’t a two-footed challenge or anything like that – it was very inconspicuous and it could happen at any point.
“You’ve got ropes that go around the boundaries and you see the amount of times people twist their ankles going over them. Look, it can happen at any point and it just so happens it becomes a talking point because we were warming up during a game of football.”