Ben Foakes: England wicketkeeper needs runs to secure spot long-term and Lord’s was a good start

Joe Root was the hero at Lord’s, but Ben Foakes’ contribution could be just as important as his aim to secure his place as England’s long-term goalkeeper; the 29-year-old hasn’t scored half a century in his last 20 test innings, but he looked in the match-winning position

Ben Foakes played a crucial role in England’s victory over New Zealand at Lord’s

Joe Root walked off the field with his bat up and earned the raves of the Lord’s crowd after his majestic winning hundred.

It was a special moment for Root given what had come before and he would go on to speak of the “harmful effect” that the captaincy, which he resigned just under two months ago, ended up having on his personal life.

Further back, Ben Foakes, letting his former skipper take his bow alone, was junior partner in the unbroken sixth wicket position of 120 runs who had helped secure victory over New Zealand in a fabulous first Test.

Records will show that Foakes contributed 32 runs from 92 balls to the association, compared to 81 runs from Root. More importantly, they will show that he was there at the end.

The Surrey keeper came in with England still firmly locked in, more than 100 runs from victory with five wickets remaining and only bowlers left to come. The fact that they crossed the line so comfortably at the end is due to the brilliance of Root, yes, but also to the efforts of Foakes.

This is a big summer for Foakes. It has been five years since he was named as part of the England tour party for Ashes 17/18. A year later, he scored a century on his Sri Lanka debut, but has never been given the opportunity to establish himself as the first-choice goalkeeper in the Test side.

In fact, the match at Lord’s was their first test at home, with the previous 11 all abroad.

Foakes’ credentials as a pure glover have never been in question. His director of cricket at Surrey, Alec Stewart, a former England goalkeeper, has repeatedly stated his belief that the 29-year-old is the best in the world behind the stumps.

However, with the bat, he was seen as third of three compared to Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler, the men for whom he has backed up at various times over the years. Since both of them are also good goalkeepers, that was enough to give them the advantage.

But with England committed to Bairstow as a front-row batsman and Buttler left to flourish in the shorter formats for now, Foakes looks poised for a decent run in the XI.

However, he didn’t let the opportunity slip effortlessly into his mitts on the West Indies tour, with unusual carelessness behind the stumps and averaging just 19.20 over six innings, four of which were played on pitches. flatter.

England have seen Jonny Bairstow as a front-row batsman rather than a wicketkeeper batsman recently

So while his place wasn’t under any real pressure entering the New Zealand series, he had yet to prove that he deserved to keep it for the long haul. Since his debut series in Sri Lanka, he had a test average of 16.18 before the series opening and there were doubts about his ability to play first class fast bowling.

An average of 98.75 in the county championship this season, with an unbeaten century and two fifties, shows that Foakes is more than capable of scoring runs against seam bowling but, as countless English batsmen have discovered of late, there is a big difference between county bowling. bowlers and those at the test level.

Tim Southee provided an example of that when he opened up in the crease to get a shot out of nothing and a tame dismissal of Foakes, doing little to allay doubts, and although his glove work was back to his usual level, he came out in the second innings. under a little more pressure.

After all, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where a supposedly long side run is cut short due to a lack of runs.

Harry Brook has had a blistering start to the season with Yorkshire and a Test debut is surely a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. Should England be desperate to get him into the XI against South Africa later in the summer? Could you reconsider your position on Bairstow? Give him back the gloves he was so disappointed to lose and put Brook at five?

Or perhaps Buttler’s red-hot form in limited overs cricket continues. New England men’s cricket manager Rob Key has been a big supporter of Foakes’ predecessor behind the stumps in the past, while Ben Stokes has spoken of how much he leaned on Buttler for advice when he captained the team for the first time. time in the absence of Root. 2020.

Certainly, on paper, Buttler seems to be a better fit for the kind of adventurous cricket expected under Brendon McCullum and Stokes than under Chris Silverwood, where the focus was on hitting long and wearing down the opposition. Could he be in line for a recall?

Neither scenario is particularly likely at the moment. But if Foakes isn’t contributing the bat, it won’t be long before he looks over his shoulder, especially if England persist with a lineup that sees the tail start at No. 8.

That’s why Foakes’ second entry into Lord’s was so important. The races were important, but more so was the way he got them.

He struggled through the third night, looking like he was hitting on a different surface than Root, unashamedly, but he did what was asked of him. He made sure to be there for the beginning of the fourth day.

However, the player who came out that fourth morning bore little resemblance to the one who had been playing the night before. There was freedom and fluidity in Foakes’ hitting, he had located the pitch that Root was hitting and found it to his liking as well.

Gone was the jitters of day three, replaced by calm confidence as he hit, shot and, most enjoyable, drove down the middle for four to help England reach their goal. Him all the while staying safe on defense, never giving the Black Caps a whiff of the wicket that would have blown the game wide open.

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