PAUL NEWMAN: Ben Foakes’ case to become England’s Test wicketkeeper for good is overwhelming… Jos Buttler’s two drops in Adelaide may have hastened his day of reckoning having struggled to live up to his immense ability in red-ball cricket
- Doubts emerged about Ben Foakes’ batting on England’s tour of South Africa
- Jos Buttler was pencilled in as the No 1 wicketkeeper-batsman for the Ashes
- How questionable that judgment looked when Buttler dropped two chances
- When Foakes has played, he has justified claims of being the best keeper around
- Foakes batting is good enough to have seen him make a century on Test debut
It may seem a small example of the long-term Ashes planning that has gone so badly awry but it is worth remembering Ben Foakes was all but ruled out of this series by England almost two years ago.
It was then, when England were in South Africa, that doubts emerged about Foakes’ ability with the bat against the short ball in Australian-type conditions and Jos Buttler was pencilled in as the No 1 keeper-batsman Ashes option.
That logic was questioned at the time by Surrey director of cricket Alec Stewart who was adamant Foakes had never displayed a weakness against short bowling at the Oval.
Doubts emerged about Ben Foakes’ ability with the bat when England were in South Africa
That logic was questioned at the time by Surrey director of cricket Alec Stewart
Not to mention the fact that, when he has been given a chance by England, Foakes has justified Stewart’s assessment of him as the best wicketkeeper in the world.
How questionable that pre-Ashes judgment looked on the first day of the second Test when Buttler dropped a late chance to reprieve Marnus Labuschagne off Jimmy Anderson that would have been taken by any self-respecting keeper at virtually any level of the game.
It was not the first blemish by Buttler either as he had also dropped a tougher opportunity, with Labuschagne on just 21, off Ben Stokes that could have painted a very different first day Adelaide picture for England.
And the fact Buttler took by far the most difficult of the three opportunities that went his way, an athletic leg-side grab to send back Marcus Harris, only added to the sense of what might have been for England.
How questionable that judgment looked when Jos Buttler dropped Marnus Labuschagne twice
Any self-respecting keeper at virtually any level would have taken the second chance
It may also have hastened the day of reckoning for the most gifted of white-ball players in Buttler who has so frustratingly struggled to fully live up to his immense ability whenever he has pulled on the white shirt for England and faced a red ball.
Buttler, to his credit, has refused to take the easy route and concentrate fully on the limited-overs side he seems destined to captain as soon as Eoin Morgan calls it a day.
Not to mention cash in on the numerous franchise white-ball opportunities that could see him fully engage in what he does best, at considerable financial reward.
Instead he has continued to be one of Joe Root’s most trusted lieutenants and pledged to play his part in this Ashes even when it seemed he might have to spend four months on the road without seeing his young family because of Covid restrictions.
Buttler seems destined to captain the limited-overs side as soon as Eoin Morgan calls it a day
But Foakes, who according to Stewart is the best wicketkeeper in the world, is overwhelming
But the case for Foakes is becoming overwhelming now. He has fully recovered from the freak hamstring injury that denied him the opportunity to further display his class against New Zealand last summer when Buttler was rested and is keeping better than ever.
And, it should be remembered, Foakes batting is good enough to have seen him make a century on Test debut against Sri Lanka in Galle three years ago and have a first-class average of more than 38, with 11 centuries.
Buttler, by contrast, has only two hundreds in 54 Tests and only seven in total in red-ball cricket, where he averages 32.
How he needs to add a couple more during the rest of this Ashes to stop Foakes taking over, this time for good, when England visit West Indies in March.
Foakes batting is good enough to have seen him make a century on debut against Sri Lanka