James Bracey set to debut behind stumps, as England call up Billings, Hameed
Ben Foakes has torn his left hamstring in a dressing-room accident and will miss the two-Test series against New Zealand, starting at Lord’s on June 2, with James Bracey set to debut in his place as wicketkeeper.
Foakes, who had been in line to play his maiden home Test series after finishing the recent tour of India as England’s incumbent keeper, sustained the injury after slipping in his socks while walking through the Surrey dressing-room following their drawn LV= County Championship fixture against Middlesex on Sunday.
Foakes’ assessment and rehabilitation will be managed by the Surrey medical team. However, in a statement, the ECB said that he was expected to be out of action for at least three months, meaning he is unlikely to play any part in the five-Test series against India that starts at Trent Bridge on August 4.
In Foakes’ absence, Bracey is in line to take over the keeper’s role for his Test debut. Bracey has been a part of England’s bio-secure bubble since the home series against West Indies last July, and was already widely tipped to make his debut as a batter at some stage in the series.
However, the other established wicketkeepers in England’s ranks – Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow – are both missing from the current squad, having been rested following their involvement in the IPL, which was postponed earlier this month due to India’s surge in Covid cases.
As a consequence, Sam Billings has been drafted into the Test squad as cover. Though he was also at the IPL, as a non-playing squad member at Delhi Capitals, Billings’ winter was interrupted by a shoulder injury, sustained during his solitary ODI appearance at Pune. He returned to action as Kent’s captain last week, making 11 against Glamorgan in his first County Championship appearance of the season.
Given that Bracey was effectively covering for two roles in England’s squad, the coach Chris Silverwood has also recalled the Nottinghamshire opener Haseeb Hameed, who played each of his three Tests against India in 2016-17, before breaking his hand and suffering a subsequent loss of form for his former club, Lancashire.
Hameed, however, has started the 2021 season impressively, making 474 runs at 52.66 to help Nottinghamshire end a three-year win drought with three victories in a row. He is due to play in the forthcoming Championship fixture against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, starting on Thursday, before linking up with the England squad at their London base on Sunday night.
The timing of Foakes’ injury would be cruel for any player, but it is particularly unfortunate given how long he has had to wait to be given an extended run in England’s Test squad. He was first selected for England’s tour of Sri Lanka in 2018-19, and immediately impressed with a matchwinning hundred on debut in Galle. However, he was squeezed out of the XI after an ill-balanced team slumped to two Test defeats on England’s subsequent tour of West Indies.
Despite being widely considered the best gloveman in English cricket, Foakes was made to wait another two years for his next Test opportunity, when Buttler flew home for the final three Tests of England’s tour of India, as part of the management’s rest and rotation policy. His wicketkeeping immediately stood out in tough conditions, as he pulled off three stumpings in the second Test at Chennai, although he was unable to better the unbeaten 42 that he made in the first innings of that match.
Speaking to London’s Evening Standard in the build-up to the Lord’s Test, Foakes admitted he was looking forward to his home England debut after eight overseas appearances (as well as a one-off ODI against Ireland in Malahide and a T20I in Cardiff in 2019), but said that he recognised that opportunities at the highest level could be few and far between.
“You can preoccupy with the external stuff that’s not in your control,” he said. “I am not wondering how many games I might get. I just want to get picked, and treat it for what it is – a game. I’m not worried about any add-ons. I would like to get runs and catch well, but I wouldn’t say I’m trying to put reminders in peoples’ minds or anything like that. I’m just trying to do well.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
(With Inputs from ESPN)
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