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Bairstow’s return is approaching, and Foakes acknowledges, “I’m not, as you’d say, Bazball.”

Bairstow's return is approaching, and Foakes acknowledges, "I'm not, as you'd say, Bazball."

After five years and 19 Test appearances, Ben Foakes is aware that nothing should be taken for granted. He seemed to be on the verge of something good, but then something happens to throw him off course.

The 2018–19 winter saw two Tests dropped into the West Indies series that January after beginning with a century on one’s debut in Sri Lanka. After being recalled to play against India at the beginning of 2021, he missed the entire summer of 2022 after hurting his hamstring while sliding on a sock in the Surrey locker room.

Even after taking over as the team’s primary gloveman at the start of the summer, he contracted Covid-19 in the third Test against New Zealand. Sam Billings took his position in the middle of the game, and Foakes was unable to recuperate in time to play the next match against India at Edgbaston. After falling in Pakistan, Ben Stokes elected to maintain a more offensive balance and keep Ollie Pope behind the wickets, which resulted in him missing not just the first of the three Tests but also the second. Pope had forgotten to bring his gloves, so Foakes had to give them to his Surrey teammate to underscore the almost hilarious levels of misfortune.

Another obstacle looms ahead after he scored his sixth fifty-plus score in the second innings of the first Test against New Zealand to help secure a crushing 267-run victory. One much more dangerous than a lost sock to Foakes’ Test aspirations.

The world-beating, borderline historic form of Jonny Bairstow’s replacement Harry Brook has made picking him difficult as he recovers from a fractured ankle. With four centuries, making it six in 2022, Bairstow was the batting’s engine during Brendon McCullum’s first few months in charge. Nevertheless, Brook has filled in and, in essence, cemented his spot with three hundreds in four Tests.
One of the suggested ways to include them both in the XI has involved using some artistic licence to have one of them serve as the opener. Sadly for Foakes, the simplest course of action would be to remove the gloves from him and return them to Bairstow for the first time since September 2021.

Naturally, none of this is assured. And who knows? There’s a good probability that this dialogue won’t take place in the future. Foakes is aware that it is a hot topic. Yet, his experiences over the past year alone have demonstrated that enthusiasm for his own game is more preferable to anxiety.

Before England left for Wellington, where the second Test would start on Friday, Foakes said in Mount Maunganui, “I suppose my England trip has been a bit of a rollercoaster from day one.” “I’ve spent a lot of time away from the squad wondering, ‘How do I get back in?’ and other similar questions, but I assume thinking about those things has no benefit to my performance.

He responded when asked about the possibility of losing his position to Bairstow: “Naturally, you’re going to worry about things. But at this point, there is no point in worrying about it. I’m in a good place professionally right now, so I’m simply trying to enjoy it rather than worry about what might happen.

“In international cricket, there are always going to be different phases. In my professional life, there have been numerous occasions when I have predicted something would occur but it has never done so. So, there is no need to worry about it.

Foakes wasn’t always this way, even under the new government that was primarily focused on dispelling uncertainty. With all due respect, his game is a little retro, even though you don’t really need to look back that far. He is more of a conventional accumulator than one of the new radicals next to him; he has the majority of the bullets, but not many of them are in the air.
He has progressively developed his own method of supporting the team, in part due to no pressure from those in authority and sporadic positive reinforcement to just be himself, therefore it is crucial that he is now at ease with being the outlier.

He conceded, “I’m not, as you’d say, Bazball.” So I kind of wondered, ‘How am I supposed to approach this?’ But I don’t believe that has always been the case; I don’t believe you have to strive to hit every ball for a six. Play by your rules, but if you believe the option is selected, don’t second-guess yourself or be critical. Attempt it.

Some of these men are better at hitting the ball anywhere. I don’t believe it’s the best idea to attempt and do that since it just seems to be rather outside of my areas of expertise. I believe in exercising freedom, but doing it in a way that makes you feel at ease.

You should keep your strike rate above 50. You can check it by looking up at the scoreboard. But I believe that playing a little more conventional cricket is one of my strengths. In order to bridge the gap between our powerful starts and then naturally batting with the tail, I definitely have to bat differently during that time when we’re so far behind, but generally speaking, it’s worked fairly well.

And I do believe that many of the games to which I have made a contribution have involved me more in the role of batting ordinarily and perhaps in more stressful circumstances where you cannot lose a wicket. Hence, I believe that striving to perform during those times is very important for the team, and that’s where I can probably have the biggest impact.

Foakes is also correct. To understand the benefit of “batting regularly,” as he puts it, in this lineup, one only needs to look at his four highest scores since last May. Before the start of the match at Old Trafford, England had 147 for 5, four runs short of South Africa’s innings total. He contributed 173 with Stokes, then 95 with the tail to enable the team reach 415 for 9 before winning an innings that tied the series.

He scored 56 against New Zealand at Trent Bridge earlier that summer, teaming up with Joe Root for 111 runs to reduce a 148-run deficit from the first innings to only 14. He came in Karachi in December with England five runs behind Pakistan and behind by 149 runs before joining forces with Brook (117) and the tail (62) to give the visitors a 50-run advantage.

Foakes was essential to the day’s tactics in order to manage time into the evening when they put in New Zealand under lights for the second time in three days, even though the situation was not precarious when he arrived (225 for 5, with a second-innings lead of 244). The fourth game took place on Saturday. As Stuart Broad destroyed the top order, England took a 1-0 lead in the two-match series the following morning.
The fact that Foakes was delayed when Harry Brook was caught at slip made his ability to maintain his composure from the start all the more impressive. Stokes was supposed to be the next man in, but he was already busy. Foakes said, “He was on the toilet, absolutely. He literally sat down as the ball came down, and I was rushing around since I only had one pad on. You go! I was yelling at him. I’m not prepared. He was preoccupied, though there can never be too much masterclass left behind.

He continued, “It kind of seems like club cricket.” Not so much in terms of the captain being suspended as in terms of how the dressing room’s mentality has altered despite the fact that this is still such a demanding, gruelling format. “When I first started playing Test cricket, the expectations were unbearable, and you were always worrying about playing a fake shot and other such things. Moreover, it’s now occasionally possible to exit in an odd manner as a joke.

The pressure will always be a little bit higher on Foakes since he is the one making changes, especially because Bairstow is waiting in the wings to recover. It is clear at this point that Foakes being true to himself and being true to the team go hand in hand, regardless of how the cards fall. He can rest easy knowing he has fulfilled all requirements if and when that changes. good done in doing it.


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