Ben Foakes must show England he can handle the pace against South Africa to reward Ben Stokes’ loyalty after lull

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Last night in central London the whole England Test team, along with members of the backstage team and some white ball specialists and ex-players, gathered to spend nearly two hours watching their captain.

Ben Stokes and Oscar-winning filmmaker Sam Mendes have hosted a premiere screening of their documentary about the England captain, which premieres Friday on Amazon Prime.

The team were present before decamping to Manchester this morning for Thursday’s second test against South Africa. England cricketers hold Stokes in high regard, but they will have learned a lot more about him in those 105 minutes and it’s hard to believe none of them have left their skipper viewer obscured at a distance .

At only 31 years old, her life has already been extraordinary, full of ups and downs. It’ll be interesting to see over the coming weeks and months if he’s able to extract a bit more from his players now that they’ve seen him bare.

Stokes’ film tells us a little about his leadership style: the “running into danger” mindset that has become a cliché in recent years, the caring soul beyond the harsh exterior, and above all loyalty.

There are English players taking advantage of it now. Attention is on the openers, mainly Zak Crawley, who hasn’t reached his 50s in seven Tests but is constantly having his tires pumped up by management and doesn’t look likely to be dropped until the end of the summer. , no matter how hard it is.

In the same way that England refer to Crawley as the winner of the match, Ben Foakes is regularly called by Stokes “the best wicketkeeper in the world”. He’s probably right. The cliché says that a wicketkeeper is like a referee: he does his job when you don’t notice him. These days, however, the way a keeper tends to get noticed is when they don’t score points.

Foakes, who started the summer well, saw his season calm down, in part due to factors completely beyond his control. In England’s first two wins of the summer, Foakes played quietly crucial hands in two chases, alongside Joe Root and then Stokes, with only a long tail behind him. He also had an excellent half-century at Nottingham before being dismissed.

Ben Foakes had an impressive start to the England Test summer, but his form faltered

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At Leeds, Foakes was ruled out halfway through the test by Covid, but not before registering his first duck in international cricket. Despite testing negative, he was still no good for Edgbaston, with Sam Billings taking his place and doing a solid job. He contested three wins at Surrey in July but arrived at Lord’s without a cricket in three weeks and, although he kept beautifully, did six and nothing, unable to stay in England’s two slumps. He looked a little intimidated by the pace of South Africa.

That leaves Foakes with a 26.9 test average, which drops to 20.9 this year. Few doubt his class – and he has an average of 81 for Surrey this year and 39 overall. When Foakes is unable to stay, England’s tail – which won’t get any shorter anytime soon – is exposed

Selection problems in England

openers

England’s opening pair have been a problem since Andrew Strauss retired ten years ago. Alex Lees and Zak Crawley had their moments and put up a 107 just two Tests ago. But both average in the mid-20s and Crawley, in particular, is playing for his future.

The Guardian

Ben Foakes didn’t quite nail his place in the West Indies in March, but started the summer with some big contributions at bat. He has since had two quiet tests, although he has held up well at Lord. Question marks against a high pace.

The crimpers

Stuart Broad and Matt Potts have contested all five Tests this summer. Neither was quite at Lord’s, which could mean England turn to Ollie Robinson. He was excellent last summer and he is in good shape again. Its precision would be an asset.

Jonny Bairstow will never give up hope of keeping the wicket for England, but that ambition currently appears to be on the back burner. Jos Buttler’s Test career appears to have been cut short as much by England’s clean-ball schedule as by his own shortcomings, making Billings the likeliest rival. He’s a solid keeper and decent batter with leadership qualities.

England know that when they arrive in Pakistan in December they cannot afford to miss any opportunities on the pitch because, on pitches as flat as Australia experienced earlier this year, another risk of not showing up for hours. Foakes is their best hope to create a half chance, especially as the spinners struggle. The surfaces must also be suitable for his constant accumulation mark with the bat.

Foakes will almost certainly still have the job in Pakistan because of Stokes’ loyalty but, before they get there, they would like another big contribution with the bat.


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