Jos Buttler poised to take gloves off Jonny Bairstow for England's tour of New Zealand
England are considering handing Jos Buttler the wicketkeeping gloves, ahead of Jonny Bairstow, during their Test tour of New Zealand in November. England name their squad for New Zealand next week and believe the Test team retains significant room for improvement despite salvaging a 2-2 draw from the Ashes series.
Since reverting to being Test wicketkeeper in February, Bairstow is averaging only 18 from seven Test matches. He averages only 24 since the start of the 2018 summer. In the same period, Buttler averages 36 in Tests. England retain a strong belief that Bairstow, who has six Test centuries, can thrive as a specialist batsman in Test cricket, but do not feel like they are currently getting the best out of him.
All six of Bairstow’s Test hundreds have come either in games where he had yet to keep – because England batted first, and his century came in the first innings – or, as in his century in Sri Lanka last year, when he was a specialist batsman. Overall, in Tests when he is the wicketkeeper, he averages 52 in the first innings of the match but only 30 over the last three innings.
Bairstow is still likely to tour New Zealand as a specialist batsman. Surrey’s Ollie Pope, who played two Tests last year and has been in fine form since returning from injury this summer, is certain to be picked, and has a good chance of batting in the middle order in the first Test.
At least one of the openers Dominic Sibley and Zak Crawley will also tour. Sibley has enjoyed the more impressive domestic season, and hit a double century in the current round of County Championship cricket. Both Sibley and Crawley could either bat at three or open, in which case Joe Denly could move down to number three and skipper Joe Root could shuffle down to four. Ben Foakes, who made a Test century on debut in Sri Lanka, is also poised to go as another wicketkeeping option.
England expect James Anderson, Mark Wood and Olly Stone to be injured for the Test tour. The matches in New Zealand are not part of the World Test Championship, making England less inclined to rush players back. In the absence of the fast bowling trio, Lancashire’s quick Saqib Mahmood, who is 22, has a strong chance of winning his first call-up.
Even if Mahmood does not win a Test call-up, England are keen to include him in their squad for the five Twenty20 internationals in New Zealand. England expect that Eoin Morgan will continue as limited overs captain – in both formats – and lead that leg of the tour, and then carry on until at least the T20 World Cup in Australia next October.
Somerset’s exciting Tom Banton, whose style has been compared to Kevin Pietersen, will win his first international call-up for the T20 games. Kent’s Sam Billings, who made 87 in his last international innings but missed most of the summer – including the World Cup – with injury is also set to be recalled for this series. His county team-mate Denly will be included in both the T20 and Test squads following his 94 in the last Ashes Test.