Stokes set for move to No3 but Bairstow return in doubt
England are considering moving Ben Stokes to their problem position of No 3 but Jonny Bairstow may have to wait for his Test recall.
England left Galle yesterday morning for a night in Colombo on their way to Kandy for the second Test, which starts on Wednesday, and have difficult selection issues to resolve despite taking a 1-0 lead in the series. Bairstow will be put through a rigorous fitness test on his damaged ankle ligaments over the next two days to decide whether he is fit enough to be considered for selection.
Ben Foakes’s man-of-the-match performance in the first Test guarantees his place and Bairstow will have to accept that his job keeping wicket is over for the time being.
He comes into consideration as a specialist batsman and, with Moeen Ali set to drop back down the order, there is a vacancy at three if England decide to change a winning team for the second Test.
If they stick with the same XI or just make one bowling change by bringing in a seamer – most likely Stuart Broad – for a spinner, then Stokes is poised to move up to No3.
Trevor Bayliss, the England coach, said: “In this Test, if we’d bowled first, and Mo had bowled 40 overs, then [Jos] Buttler was going to bat No3. Going forward, obviously Jonny’s an option. But Ben Stokes as well.
“We think in England, Stokes has got as good a technique as anyone else to bat No3.
“Mo is still a chance there but he’s had a few opportunities up the order and at this stage hasn’t really taken them. He’s a guy that’s obviously going to be in the team somewhere. Yes, he’s been a guy we have thrown around a little bit.
“That’s sometimes the lot of an allrounder in the team: someone like Mo who sees himself as a batter first and a bowler second. I think he’s had the most success in that middlelower order.
“Long term, we’re starting to get a little closer to a stable order.” Bayliss believes the 211-run victory in Galle in the first match of the three-Test series was a big step towards captain Joe Root stamping his own mark on the team, particularly now his predecessor Alastair Cook has retired.
“What I would say already on this tour, it is looking very much like there is a feel that this is the beginnings of Joe Root’s team,” Bayliss said. “There are some new, younger players coming into the team and around the squad and it just has that feel about it that this can be the beginnings of a better time.”