England signal 2021-22 Ashes intent as Jonny Bairstow axed from Test squad to tour New Zealand
Jonny Bairstow became the highest profile casualty of the freshening up of England’s Test team yesterday when he was dropped for the tour to New Zealand.
Four uncapped players were named in the squad as England signalled a new era at the outset of a new Ashes cycle.
Joe Root, the Test captain said last week that planning for the 2021-22 Ashes series starts now and the dropping of Bairstow, a first -team regular for five years, was the biggest decision by the selectors who called up for the first time batsmen Dominic Sibley and Zak Crawley as well as Lancashire leg-spinner Matt Parkinson and his county colleague, quick bowler Saqib Mahmood. Surrey’s Ollie Pope returns to the Test squad for the first time in a year.
Bairstow was told in a phone call by Ed Smith, the national selector, that he was not part of the squad for two Tests in New Zealand. Bairstow was shocked and disappointed by the news and thought he was going to be travelling to New Zealand as England’s first choice wicket-keeper batsman after being handed a Test central contract last week.
He is due to meet Smith on Wednesday to discuss his future but is understood to be determined to make a comeback and regain his Test place. However, Bairstow knows his Test future is likely to be as a specialist batsman. Smith confirmed Jos Buttler will be England’s wicketkeeper in New Zealand and he is set for a long run in the role.
The selectors want to see Bairstow concentrating on batting and regaining his form after a year in which he has averaged 20.25 in Test cricket.
Bairstow is renowned for his ability to prove critics and doubters wrong so Smith hopes dropping him for New Zealand motivates him to address the technical issues that have weakened his batting in Test cricket. Bairstow has a problem with being bowled by balls cutting back into him, probably a result of expanding his game in white ball cricket to become one of the best openers in the one day game.
“Jonny is a very talented cricketer. We believe he has the potential to be a top, top player in Test cricket for England. He has played a lot, in all forms, and it's an opportunity for him to reset and work on one or two things. If I had to give a prediction it would be that he comes back stronger and has a very good England career in Test cricket,” said Smith. “He hasn't been rested. That would be a cop out. However I do see Jonny as being a top batsman, so I would say it's an opportunity to reset and come back.”
Root will return to his favoured position at no 4 in New Zealand and the Test team will now be picked from specialists rather than made up of aggressive allrounders who shaped the Trevor Bayliss era.Credit: Getty Images
Sibley and Crawley are both openers and will vie to partner Rory Burns at the top of the order. Ollie Pope could bat at no 5 ahead of the allrounders Ben Stokes at six and Buttler at seven. Pope will also deputise as a wicket-keeper in New Zealand, although Ben Foakes has been put on standby in case Buttler suffers a serious injury.
“Joe wants to bat No 4 and as we've discussed, that has impacted on selection. We need three above him and that's why reserve options or depth is geared towards the top three,” said Smith.
“Joe's position does affect the structure. We feel we're comfortable and supporting his decision to bat No4. We're looking to develop a top three to allow him to bat No 4.”
Sibley has earned his selection through weight of runs for Warwickshire. He is the leading run scorer in county cricket and has faced almost 1,000 more deliveries than any other batsman this summer suggesting he could give England solidity alongside Burns.
Crawley is more fortunate to be picked and has been called up on potential rather than form. He averages 31 in first-class cricket and at 21 it is asking a lot to make the step up to Test level.Credit: PA
“It's the start of a new cycle. With Trevor Bayliss leaving it's an opportunity to look ahead. This is a strong Test squad with an eye on the future,” said Smith. “Dom Sibley has shown a number of qualities. He's very clear about his game. Zak hasn't produced the raw numbers this year however he's impressed everyone, opponents, team-mates and the Lions, with his class and his attitude and character.”
Parkinson is an attacking leg-spinner and Root wants variation in his attack. Mahmood is raw but skilful and tours in the absence of James Anderson, who has not sufficiently recovered from his calf injury. Anderson and Mark Wood will have to prove their fitness for the South Africa tour at a fast bowlers’ camp in December.
England, as expected, rested a number of their senior players from the first half of the New Zealand tour which involves five Twenty20 internationals. Root, Stokes, Buttler, Jofra Archer, Jason Roy and Moeen Ali all miss the trip after the draining World Cup and Ashes summer. Moeen had indicated at the weekend he wanted to go to New Zealand but has been left out and told to rest.
James Vince and Dawid Malan are two old faces in the Twenty20 squad but there is a first call up for Somerset’s Tom Banton, the most exciting young white ball English batsman in the county game.