LAWRENCE BOOTH: Ben Foakes’ impressive blitz shows that he fits the England revolution
LAWRENCE BOOTH: Ben Foakes’ impressive fourth morning blitz against New Zealand shows he’s fit for England’s red ball revolution
- Ben Foakes has shown he can still play a key role for England
- Ben Stokes went out of his way to praise Foakes after his impressive display
- Foakes confirmed his credentials behind the stumps and may be here to stay
If England’s new setup still harbored doubts about Ben Foakes’ role in the revolution, they should have cleared the opening 20 minutes of the fourth morning of this harrowing second test.
When Foakes walked out to bat with 24 to his name, he could have easily sought out his partner Joe Root’s slipstream.
Instead, he timed Tim Southee’s second ball through extra cover and then – aided by a missfield – did the same on the third.
Ben Foakes’ performance showed he deserves to be part of England’s revolution
Three through midwicket helped to make it 12 from the opening, and England had immediately capitalized on Sunday’s frenzy as they racked up 383 runs – their most in a day game in over a decade.
Shortly afterwards, Foakes cut Southee for four more to complete his first Test fifty since his first series, in November 2018 in Sri Lanka.
At the time, the thought that this Test might only be his 13th would have raised eyebrows. But circumstances got in the way: England hadn’t given up on Jonny Bairstow or Jos Buttler, and then came Covid and a bizarre locker room injury, when he tore a hamstring that slipped into his socks.
That kept him out of last summer’s series against New Zealand, out of concern that his chance had come and gone – especially when he had a quiet time earlier this year on both sides of the stumps in the Caribbean.
Foakes confirmed his credentials behind the stumps – he makes the awkward look everyday
But Ben Stokes made it clear to Brendon McCullum that Foakes preferred the gloves on the refreshingly simple ground that he was the best wicket-keeper in the world.
Doubts arose in part because Rob Key, England’s new cricket director, never hid his admiration for Buttler.
McCullum also used his first public appearance to suggest that Buttler could still translate his cue ball form into Test success.
Then there was Bairstow. The easiest decision would have been to give him the gloves, leaving Harry Brook at number 5 – the next batting cab next to the rankings.
There were concerns that Foakes’ chance was gone, but he showed what he’s capable of
But Stokes’ preference for Foakes trumped all other considerations, and the new captain went out of his way to praise his wicketkeeper after his unbeaten 32 helped England win at Lord’s. Foakes called it ‘the best feeling I’ve had in cricket’.
Stokes and McCullum were particularly impressed with the way he had soaked up the pressure on the third night of that game. The next morning, they knocked off the remaining 61 runs without fuss.
After Foakes’ struggle in the West Indies, where he averaged just 19, and a first innings failure at Lord’s, an early reminder of why he averaged 42 for Surrey was crucial in settling the debate.
Something similar happened on the third night here in Nottingham. In response to New Zealand’s mammoth 553, England had just lost Stokes to a raw 46 and it was 405 to five with only Foakes for their long tail.
Ben Stokes went out of his way to praise Foakes after his unbeaten 32 against New Zealand
Lucky to survive a shot at a deep square leg at nine, he helped bring England to 473 for five at stumps – then cracked on Monday until exhausted for 56 due to a poor call from Matt Potts.
Foakes then began to reaffirm his credentials behind the stumps, not least when he jumped high down the side of the leg to intercept short swinging deliveries from Potts. As with all the best wicketkeepers, he makes the awkward look mundane.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day came when a ball wobbled late after passing the bat and knocked Foakes on the left thumb.
He winced, took off his glove and shook his hand. It was a rare moment of inelegance from a player who can finally be here to stay.