England are currently one of the leading teams in the cricketing world, with their Test, ODI and T20 squads boasting a supreme amount of talent with the bat, ball and in the field.
Their batting in particular has stunned many with the power hitting of Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes. Buttler in particular has shone in recent years, laying waste to a number of bowling attacks over the last few seasons. Recognition ensured he was one of the star attractions at this season’s Indian Premier League. After some success for the Mumbai Indians, England have called him back for the ICC Champions Trophy.
He did miss England’s recent 2-0 series win over Ireland, with the Three Lions comfortable winners in both games. One man that did star was another wicket-keeper batsman, Jonny Bairstow. The hitter notched scores of 10 not out and 72 not out from 44 balls.
While he shone throughout the short series, England’s captain Morgan has played down Bairstow’s chances of retaining his place saying:
“It is looking like that at the moment – which is unfortunate for him. You can’t guarantee how often he would be used.
We’ve a really strong batting line-up, particularly when Stokes, Chris Woakes and Buttler come back in. I’m not sure about justifying an out-and-out batter at seven”
According to the captain, Bairstow is unlikely to feature in the tournament. While it would be a moot point to surmise that Bairstow can match the hitting power of Buttler, his omission from the side is not entirely fair considering his recent performances.
Morgan’s comments force many to wonder whether it should be the captain himself who is dropped. This is unlikely to happen. England have always been reluctant to drop captains, and it’s something that distinguishes us from Australia. England’s second victory over Ireland exposed our inability to go for the jugular; it was a flaccid performance that allowed the Paddies to meander to a respectable score.
Against Ireland, Morgan returned scores of 10 and 76, while Bairstow notched 10* and 72*.
Not a bad one-handed four from @jbairstow21!
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) May 7, 2017
Morgan has hit 384 runs in eight innings in 2017 at an average of 48, which is not a bad return. Bairstow on the other hand has been forced to remain contented with sporadic appearances in the ODI team. He has hit three half centuries in his last eight games, and smashed 86 in a warm up versus the West Indies earlier in the year.
The stats say that Morgan is the more deserving of the place, but statistics look kindly on a player who always turns out for England.
Bairstow looks calm and assured at the crease, comfortable digging in when the team needs him too, able to play fluently or destructively. This is a far cry form the player that initially broke onto the Test scene, where he struggled to acclimate to a more defensive environment.
In the field the two are evenly matched. Morgan is renowned for his athleticism and ability with his hands, while Bairstow, being a wicketkeeper, is also fantastic with his hands.
The problem for Bairstow is that England apparently do not need another specialist batsman. Buttler is likely to take the gloves back from Sam Billings, who is also facing a drop out of the team altogether. This means Bairstow would just be a specialist batsman coming in lower down the order, whereas he was used at number five against Ireland.
Judging on how close the two players are in both batting and fielding, Morgan will always win the place. Bairstow’s removal seems inevitable following the return of Stokes and Buttler. Unfortunately for Bairstow, his two strongest areas are the facets in which Buttler excels. The pressure is on Morgan to deliver performances as England have a more than adequate replacement in the form of Bairstow.