Jonny Bairstow Set For Ashes Return, But Where Does He Fit In?

Where does he fit into Brendon McCullum's plans?
16:56, 21 Feb 2023

The Ashes are now just a matter of months away. On June 16, England will began their campaign to win back the famous little urn on home soil for the first time since 2015. The last three series have been difficult for England, one way or another, but now they look set to attack the Aussies with 'Bazball'. 

Brendon McCullum’s appointment, along with Test captain Ben Stokes, has transformed the fortunes of the England team. But the head coach still has some tricky decisions to make as the summer series moves ever closer. 

A key one will be deciding on how his batting line up looks, and where Jonnny Bairstow fits into that. His return to the Test side is now looming after his recovery from that broken ankle, but the side have been flying in his absence. For the seamers, it looks as if rotation will be key across the entire summer, but for the batsmen, form is so crucial.


One man making Test cricket look simple at this moment in time is Harry Brook. He hit 144 across his two innings in that first match against New Zealand and has brought new life to England’s middle order, currently batting at five. With his performances, the 23-year-old has nailed himself into McCullum’s plans and he simply cannot be dropped, with Stokes himself stating he will go on to be a “global superstar.”

In five Tests so far, he has averaged 77.87 - so there is no doubt he will star for England this summer. With Stokes at six and the irrepressible Joe Root at four, that now looks to be a real area of strength for England moving forward, with the attacking intent clear for all to see the moment the team sheet comes out.

It’s led some to question whether Bairstow will even be able to force his way back in. But given McCullum has already stated that there is “no doubt” that he will return, and he hit that stunning century in the first few months of Bazball to state his case, it really becomes a question of who will drop out. 

Ollie Pope at three looks secure. Stuart Broad has talked him up as the next Test captain and his influence in the dressing room is clearly growing. He took over as captain in a warm-up match against New Zealand this month and has done the same role for the England Lions. Clearly he is going nowhere soon and the 25-year-old, who has found consistency under McCullum, is happy at number three. 

So that only leaves two positions. Either Bairstow opens up the batting, as he does for the one-day team, or he sticks the gloves on again and displaces Ben Foakes. Even for the ever adventurous new-look England, having Bairstow as an opener feels like a stretch too far. Zak Crawley is being given every chance to prove himself in this side and it seems like McCullum’s faith in him is unwavering, even if his Test average is hovering around the 28 mark. 

Ben Duckett, his partner, has managed to stamp his mark on this side. He scored 84 in the first innings against New Zealand and raised his Test average to 41. It seems likely that those two will remain in place for the summer, given how impressive the Nottinghamshire man has been in recent months. The duo aren’t perhaps as spectacular as those further down the order, but they can hopefully provide a steady footing for England before the big guns come in. 

Talking of big guns, Foakes now looks likely to lose his place, but he is simply trying to focus on his cricket. 

"Naturally you're going to think about things but at the stage I'm at there's no point stressing over it," he told Sky Sports ahead of the second Test on Thursday. "I'm having some good form in my career and I'm just trying to enjoy that rather than stressing about what else might happen.

"In international cricket you will always go through certain phases. There have been so many times in my career when I've thought 'oh that's going to happen, that's going to happen' and it never has so there's no point in worrying about it.

"My England journey has been a bit of a rollercoaster from day one and I've had a lot of times out of the team where I've thought 'how do I get back in?' and things like that but I guess thinking about those things doesn't help my game at all."

There is another wild, unthinkable, perhaps impossible option. Foakes stays in. Bairstow comes in to bat. Jack Leach or another spinner drops out. England put on the most ridiculous total and then let their relentless three seamers attack, supported by Ben Stokes and Joe Root. It is brave. Perhaps stupid. But this is Bazball. Nothing is out of the question. 

Ashes odds Betfred*

*18+ | BeGambleAware

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