Jonny Bairstow faces the chop for final Test against India as England vice-captain Jos Buttler recovers gloves after missing Oval defeat… with Ollie Pope set to bat at No 5 at Old Trafford
- Joe Root had already insisted Jos Buttler would keep wicket at Old Trafford
- But Jonny Bairstow is now set to miss out altogether in the final India Test
- Ollie Pope is set to pip batsman and bat at No 5 for England in Manchester
- Root’s next big call is whether to reshuffle his tired bowling pack on Friday
Joe Root has snatched back the keeping gloves Jonny Bairstow had been so delighted to reclaim at The Oval and is set to heap further misery on him on Thursday by taking his bat away, too.
The England captain welcomed back, with almost indecent haste, his vice-captain and trusted lieutenant Jos Buttler after just a solitary Test away on paternity leave, and insisted he would keep wicket in Friday’s final Test against India.
That not only denies Bairstow a run of games in the dual position where he has produced his best in Test cricket but leaves his place as a batsman in jeopardy, with Ollie Pope favourite to pip him at No 5 slot at Old Trafford.
England are set to drop Jonny Bairstow for the fifth and final Test against India on Friday
Jos Buttler missed defeat at The Oval due to paternity leave but is set to return in Manchester
It seemed Buttler’s red-ball future was in doubt when he missed the defeat by India at The Oval to be at the birth of his daughter Margot, particularly as he is the only England player so far to voice serious concerns in the camp about going to the Ashes.
He averaged just 14 in the first three Tests with a highest score of 25 and, despite an impressive series against Pakistan last year, has still to replicate his rare white-ball ability in a Test career stretching to 53 games.
But Root leans heavily on Buttler’s tactical acumen and, particularly in the ongoing absence of Ben Stokes, he is a respected and influential figure in the England dressing room. ‘Jos is the vice-captain of this team, a senior player and integral to what we are about,’ said Root at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
‘I know his output in terms of runs in this series is not as high as he would like, but we know what a great player he is and how important he can be in turning a Test.’
Ollie Pope meanwhile is the favourite to pip Bairstow for the No 5 slot at Old Trafford
That will be of little consolation to Bairstow, who has been messed around more than most England players, even though Root insisted he was made aware his reacquaintance with his beloved gloves would be a brief one. ‘Jonny knew exactly what the scenario was when he was given that opportunity to keep wicket last week,’ said a captain in desperate need of a series-levelling victory.
‘Sometimes you have to deal with things you don’t necessarily agree with but I don’t think that’s the case with Jonny. He has been a big part of the squad for a while now.’
Root’s next big call is whether to reshuffle his tired bowling pack, with Jack Leach under consideration for his first Test of the summer to provide a spin option alongside Moeen Ali on what looked a dry Old Trafford pitch on Wednesday, and Mark Wood expected to return.
It would be a surprise if Jimmy Anderson misses out, particularly as there is no Old Trafford Test next year and this could be his last chance to bowl from the end that bears his name at his home ground. So Craig Overton and perhaps even Ollie Robinson, whose pace was down at the Oval after the exertions of his successful first Test summer, could miss out.
Chris Silverwood (L) and Joe Root’s next big call is whether to reshuffle a tired bowling pack
‘It’s something we will weigh up over the next couple of days,’ said Root. ‘The days between Tests are really important to recovery for our bowlers and you have to trust medical advice as well as talk to players who know their own bodies.
‘You never want to go into a Test player someone under risk of injury. There are a number of things to factor in and we will make sure we are confident everyone we pick is fit and can put in a Test-worthy performance.’
This may be a huge game for Root and England, who face the prospect of a second home Test series defeat in one summer for the first time since 1986, but thoughts at Old Trafford on Wednesday again focused on an absent friend.
Root insists he will not ask Ben Stokes if he would be available to take on Australia this winter
England will on Thursday name a Twenty20 World Cup squad without Stokes — Tymal Mills could be the surprise inclusion after a four-year absence — and it is looking increasingly likely their talisman will miss the Ashes, too – if they go ahead.
‘It is not a conversation I’m willing to have with Ben,’ said Root when asked if Stokes, who is concentrating on mental health issues and the recovery of a badly broken finger, would be available to take on Australia this winter. ‘Ben will tell us when he’s ready and that should be respected by everyone.
‘I am not going to put any pressure on him. He has to look after himself and to make sure he is happy with where he is before he even considers playing cricket again. I just want him to get himself back to where he used to be.’
Root also confirmed Sportsmail‘s story that England are becoming increasingly frustrated over the lack of information they are receiving about the quarantine and biosecure bubble conditions they face in Australia.
‘Everyone wants to know what’s going on and the sooner that can be put forward to us the better,’ he added.
Cricket Australia are hopeful England players’ families will be allowed to travel to the Ashes this winter, and are planning for the series to be in front of full crowds.
‘The Ashes is so big. We are very hopeful and optimistic that we will have crowds,’ said chief executive Nick Hockley.
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