BY MARCUS HOOK
Ben Foakes has been drafted into the England squad for this Friday’s one-day international against Ireland in Dublin and the subsequent T20 against Pakistan on May 5.
The 26-year-old keeper-batsman will be in familiar company, as the 15-man party also includes Surrey team-mates Tom Curran, Liam Plunkett and Jason Roy.
Foakes has already had a taste of international cricket – he was handed his debut last winter after England’s first choice wicket keeper, Jonny Bairstow, turned an ankle.
He grabbed his chance with both hands, keeping wicket impeccably and averaging 69.25 with the bat in Sri Lanka.
The Test series victory over the Sri Lankans culminated in Foakes being named Man of the Series. But, just three Tests later, he missed out when Bairstow took up again behind the timbers for the final Test against the West Indies.
Alec Stewart, Surrey’s director of cricket, reacted: “Ben could easily have batted at three in St Lucia. If Jonny had to bat seven, instead of bringing Keaton Jennings back and dropping Joe Denly down, I would have looked at batting Foakesy at three.”
Foakes revealed recently that he then approached Trevor Bayliss, England’s head coach, to press his claim for the Test team’s problematic number three position.
“When I was dropped I had a chat with Bayliss and he said the number three slot wasn’t nailed down,” said the former Essex man.
“I’ve never thought I could play as a batter only – I always thought I’d have to get in as a keeper – but I guess the way it’s going, if I could push my case, get a lot of runs, you never know.”
This latest call to join up with the England team suggests he outlined the merits persuasively.
Since then, while injury-ravaged Surrey have had a Royal London campaign to forget, Foakes has notched up 11, 64, 82 and 71 while also claiming 10 dismissals with the gloves.
“That brief period was quite difficult to deal with,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d get dropped in St Lucia. From what you hear, it was quite a surprise. It was a case where, without making excuses, a couple of my dismissals were freak dismissals. I didn’t feel like I’d had an absolute stinker out in the Windies.
It was one of those phases. I didn’t feel like I was horribly out of form, I just didn’t get runs. A little bit of bad luck and it’s over before you know it – that sort of tour.”
Foakes added: “From what I was told, they wanted to get Jonny back down to number seven and didn’t like that balance. “I’ve been through many stages where I haven’t got runs in a county season and you get a long stretch. I guess that’s the first lesson of international cricket – that you don’t have that luxury.
You do get dropped, but you do get back in at certain stages. “Overall, it was a dream come true – an amazing winter where, I guess, I didn’t think it would come about and then things went better than I could ever expect.
Obviously, you’ve got the other end of the spectrum, but I guess that’s the way it is.” It is said that one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity.
It certainly appears to be true for Foakes, who gets his latest chance with England at the expense of Kent’s gloveman Sam Billings, who has dislocated a shoulder. Surrey’s Ollie Pope faces missing the vast majority of the season after he too put out a shoulder, his left, while fielding in last Tuesday’s Royal London One-Day Cup win over Essex at the Oval.
A Surrey CCC statement said: “Having since visited a specialist, Ollie has been advised that surgery would be the best course of action. It is hoped he will return to first-team cricket towards the back end of the current domestic season.”
Pope added on social media: “Gutted that the 2019 season has started like this. Time to get the surgery done and be back stronger. Wishing the lads all the best.”
Despite all-rounder Jordan Clark having recovered from a knee problem, the following are all sidelined – Scott Borthwick (side strain), Rikki Clarke (dislocated finger) and Jade Dernbach (calf).
On top of Surrey losing Tom Curran, Foakes, Plunkett and Roy to England duty, Sam Curran remains assigned to Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League, the final of which takes place on May 12.