Stokes backs Brook in Test at Oval as Bairstow-shaped void opened
Ben Stokes has turned to Harry Brook in place of injured Jonny Bairstow as the England Test captain looks to avoid his first series defeat since becoming the five-day decision maker under head coach Brendon McCullum.
The 23-year-old Yorkshireman Brook will make his Test debut today at No5 as England look to win another series under Stokes and McCullum – this time against South Africa.
Bairstow was ruled out of the deciding Test against the Proteas, as well as the Twenty20 World Cup this autumn, due to a freak injury sustained on a golf course last month.
England lost the first test against South Africa at Lord’s inside three days before beating the Proteas at Old Trafford a week later inside the same time period.
“I’m really looking forward to going out and watching him [Brook] play this week, but he’s deserved his opportunity,” Stokes said.
“I think I mentioned a few weeks ago he will be someone who represents England in all three formats for a long time. It’s exciting to see him get his opportunity this week with the whites on.”
Brook has played 56 first class matches for Yorkshire and has scored over 3,000 runs for the county at an average of over 36.
Though the shoes of Bairstow are monumental ones to fill, with the fellow Yorkshireman having arguably saved England from Test defeat this year on multiple occasions, Brook has been backed by the Stokes-McCullum philosophy of giving it a go.
We have seen the England captain back openers, middle order batters and bowlers no matter whether their form ebbs or flows – it’s testament to how the new England era is one of trust and encouragement.
England go into today’s deciding Test level in the three-match series at 1-1 and they’ll be hoping to extend their unbeaten series run under new management.
But with the Proteas’ pacey attack and the sturdy batting tail, the challenge will be one of significance.
Stokes and his side have thus far been able to get themselves out of major trouble with big chases and confident batting, but now they’ll need to ensure they master the basics in south London to ensure they’re not caught on the back foot.
The Stokes era has endured little obstacle, but today’s match against the World Test Championship leaders arguably poses the biggest of his tenure.