Ashes 2013-14: Who should be picked for the second Test - Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance or Ben Stokes?

The three are vying for a place in the Test side following the departure of Jonathan Trott

If there was ever any doubt about how long a week can be in international cricket, then the last seven days or so could not have made the point clearer for England.

Just over a week ago they were about to start the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, buoyed by a victory in their previous warm-up game and seemingly perfectly prepared for anything Australia might throw at them.

Now they find themselves trying to recover from one of their most humiliating defeats in recent memory and the loss of one of their most dependable and consistent batsmen.

Jonathan Trott’s departure from the tour leaves England needing a new number three and with either Joe Root or Ian Bell set to move up to fill the vacancy, the selectors must decide which new man to bring in lower down the order.

With Andy Flower definitively saying that nobody else will be called up to the squad, the battle for the number six slot is essentially a three horse race between Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance and Ben Stokes.

Bairstow is the only one of the trio with any Test match experience, having played a dozen times for England since making his debut against the West Indies in 2012, and he is also the oldest – although the difference is barely more than a couple of months and at just 24 he can hardly be said to be a grizzled veteran.

The fact that Bairstow was in the England side as recently as two Test matches ago might suggest that he is the automatic choice to step into the line up, he is after all familiar with the pressures of the role and has some experience of facing this Australian side.

Then again there is an argument that this might be the very reason not to pick him for Adelaide.

While there can be no doubting Bairstow’s talent, and considering his age he could certainly go on to have a successful England career, his record so far has not been great.

He is yet to make a Test hundred, although he did make 95 against South Africa last year, but more worryingly, given his relatively short career so far, his technique has seemingly already had two major flaws.

At first he seemed particularly susceptible to short pitch bowling and while this is something he has worked on, a greater concern emerged this summer when he looked extremely vulnerable to the straight full ball – a fairly major chink for any batsman to have in his armour.

Gary Ballance Gary Ballance  

The other conventional batsman England have available is Gary Ballance, who forced his way onto the tour thanks to a fantastic season with Yorkshire that saw him score 1251 runs, the most in Division One, including five centuries at an average of 62.55.

However Ballance is almost completely untested at international level, with just a single ODI cap to his name – a four ball duck against Ireland this summer – and while the selectors would not have chosen him for the trip if they didn’t think he had the ability, the next Test at Adelaide would certainly be a very high pressure situation for him to make his debut.

Considering he is yet to post a decent score on the tour so far, the Zimbabwean-born left-hander surely needs an impressive knock in the warm-up game at Alice Springs if he is to force his way into contention.

Ben Stokes Ben Stokes  

The final man in the running for Adelaide is Durham’s Ben Stokes, who perhaps could be considered the riskiest pick yet simultaneously could prove to be the most rewarding selection.

Since Andrew Flintoff’s retirement from cricket, England have been bereft of an all-rounder and while their four-man bowling attack has for the most part proved to be mightily effective, it has at times left them looking a little bit one-dimensional.

Stokes is supremely talented and while his first-class average of 35.64 is perhaps a little lower than the ideal figure for a number six batsman, he is a potentially devastating hitter of the ball, and with the ability to bowl at a decent speed, he would give England’s bowling attack a welcome boost.

He is undoubtedly raw, in February this year he was sent home from an England Lions tour for persistent late-night drinking, although it speaks very highly of his talent that he has managed to work his way back into the good books of the notoriously disciplinarian Andy Flower so quickly.

With the warm-up match in Alice Springs starting tonight, it will be interesting to see which of the three can earn the selectors final approval – the tested yet somehow uninspiring Bairstow, the uncapped promise of Ballance or another debutant, the potentially explosive Stokes.     

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future