Don Topley column: A keeper’s life is not always a happy one
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The pick of the Englishmen in India’s IPL is undoubtedly Jonny Bairstow who, in his debut IPL season, has been sensational with the bat.
Bairstow, with controversial Aussie, Davie Warner, have become a wonderful opening partnership for the successful Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Both destructive batsmen remain at the top of the current aggregate IPL run-makers, but it has been an emotional six months for Bairstow who in Sri Lanka, last October, badly injured his ankle playing the controversial pre-match football prior to the 4th ODI.
The injury kept Bairstow out of the white ball series in the sub-continent and also made him a serious doubt for the impending Test Series in Sri Lanka. Bairstow was an important Test Match player, keeping wicket and batting at No6, where he has had tremendous success for England.
With the challenging spinning wickets in Galle, Pallakale and Colombo, the England management were extremely concerned if Bairstow couldn’t keep wicket, then there appeared a lack of confidence in Jos Buttler, who isn’t particularly impressive standing up to probably three England spinners.
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Had this Test been in England, then Buttler would have played but when a large majority of overs were going to be bowled by spinners, it had become a real concern.
Selectors, Ed Smith and Trevor Bayliss, argued their preferred cases: Smith for Buttler and Bayliss for North Essex and Frinton cricketer, Ben Foakes. Foakes was called up and eventually given his Test debut at Galle’s 1st Test
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What a dream debut for the former Essex cricketer, now with Surrey.
After an average England top order showing, Foakes arrived at the crease at 103/5 and rescued England with a splendid and technically correct 87 not out at the end of Day One. How proud would North Essex be if Foakes made a Test century on debut? His Mum, Fiona, jumped on a plane and arrived on the morning of Day Two, whilst his older brother Matt, was already at the famous Ground.
Foakes went on to record a tremendous century on debut and England won the 1st Test by a comprehensive 211 runs, watched on by the fast improving, but injured Jonny Bairstow.
I was lucky enough to be in Sri Lanka to witness this amazing feat, and immediately assisted some journalists as they wanted more information on England’s newest superstar, Ben Foakes. Unknown by many, Foakes was a young opening bowler with North Essex District Under11s - opening up with England bowler, Reece Topley - but turned to wicketkeeping before his 12th Birthday.
Bairstow soon declared himself fit, but how do you leave Foakes out who has just made a century on debut and kept wicket beautifully?
Bairstow painted a forlorn figure after being told he would not play the 2nd Test, with Foakes keeping his spot.
That particular evening, I caught up with Jonny, his lovely mother, Janet, and sister, Becky, in a Kandy Hotel – they had flown out to watch the Tests and naturally expected him to play.
Jonny was so deflated and down. He didn’t really want to be out socialising in public - he felt aggrieved that he had lost his role having performed brilliantly for England over a decent period of time. He witnessed England perform well again without him, but England had awkwardly promoted Stokes to No3, which wasn’t successful.
Bairstow’s way back was to bat at No3, which England offered him for the final Test, with the series now won.
Bairstow performed brilliantly under extreme pressure and out of position at No3. He made a defiant 110 in another England win and celebrated his ton with much gusto, aggression and fervent emotion – many will remember it!
I was so pleased for him, his family and for his recent success in the IPL as Bairstow is totally dedicated and hardworking, an inspiring role model and a thoroughly decent man.
Foakes continued with the gloves in the Caribbean Tests in January, with Bairstow batting again at 3.
Bairstow was then re-instated dropping down to bat where he has had most success at No6 and, again, took the keeper’s gloves.
Unfortunately, Foakes (who is the better keeper) was dropped. With Bairstow and Buttler now offered rests after their busy IPL period, Sam Billings injured, Ben Foakes of North Essex, might be asked to keep and make his England One Day debut against Ireland.