“Best keeper in the world” Ben Foakes hits century at the right time for England

By Kshvid News Desk

Ben Foakes has had an interesting journey so far in test cricket. Often hailed by his teammates and coaches as the “best wicketkeeper in the world,” the 29-year-old has only represented England in 16 tests in a career spanning four years.

Making his debut in the away series against Sri Lanka in 2018, Foakes immediately made an impression with a fine debut hundred against a lethal Sri Lankan spin attack. A half-century followed in the 2nd test as Foakes made 277 runs in his debut series while being excellent behind the stumps. But after a quiet series against the West Indies in the winter, he was dropped. 

Foakes has been the victim of English cricket’s persistence with the more flamboyant Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler. Since Foakes’ debut in 2018, Buttler has represented England in 29 tests, while Bairstow has added a further 30 caps to his name. This has been the story for the former Essex star in the County circuit as well. He couldn’t get into the team at his former County Essex due to James Foster and had to move to Surrey where he made a name for himself. 

After the appointments of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum as skipper and coach, Foakes was named as the undisputed No.1 at the start of the summer. But the Surrey keeper came into the Old Trafford test with an average of 22.6 for the summer. Surely not great numbers, but they are quite misleading too. 

After falling in the first innings of the 1st test, Foakes formed a match-defining 120-run partnership with Root to which he contributed 32 runs. He scored a solid 56 in the 1st innings of the 2nd test, while an unbeaten 12 followed in the 4th innings. He registered his duck in his international career in the next test before being ruled out midway into the test due to Covid. He also missed the subsequent test against India. So, the Lord’s test against South Africa was really his first failure of the summer. 

The common perception that has developed over Foakes’ batting is his inability to handle pure pace on wickets conducive to fast bowling. His appearances in the early part of his career have come in the slow, turning tracks of the subcontinent. Foakes stood out among the English batsmen in the series against Sri Lanka and India, averaging a respectable 39.5. 

Whereas his 5 tests in the West Indies have produced just 151 runs at an average of 16.77. Perceptions are hard to break and Foakes was in danger of being labelled as a subcontinental specialist if his returns against fast bowling didn’t improve. This summer was his first as an English test cricketer and it had to be a big one for him. While he looked decent in the New Zealand series, there wasn’t any score of note that truly announced his arrival. 

His dismissals in the 1st test have only added to his troubles. He was dismissed by a fiery Anrich Nortje on both occasions, losing his stumps in the first innings and edging one to the keeper with a wild slash in the second.

While Crawley and Lees were publicly backed by the head coach, Foakes did not get the same kind of support from the management. He was the odd-one-out in a batting line-up filled with flamboyant hitters and youthful bashers. There were whispers that Bairstow should be given the gloves and Harry Brooks be given a chance in the middle-order. 

England stuck with Foakes and he did not disappoint. Foakes came into the innings at a crucial juncture when England were at 147/5. South Africa removed both overnight batsmen early and the hosts were in danger of conceding their advantage. 

Foakes looked jittery early on against Rabada and Nortje, with plenty of plays and misses and edges falling short. Fortunately for the England keeper, he did not have to face the the two fast bowlers for very long as the spin duo of Harmer and Maharaj was introduced. While Stokes motored along at the other end, Foakes was patient and even reviewed successfully an lbw decision. He soon brought up his half-century off 116 deliveries. 

After Stokes was dismissed, Foakes showcased the most important skill of a No.7 – batting with the tail. England have a long tail and Foakes handled the job brilliantly by upping his scoring rate. His last 45 runs with Broad, Robinson and Leach came off 53 deliveries as he remained unbeaten on 113 after extending England’s lead to 264. 

After the innings, Foakes spoke about the adjustments he had to make to bat at No.7 for England as he came in at No.5 for Surrey. 

“It’s a different role, at Surrey I just bat five and just play,” Foakes said. “When you get on quite challenging wickets batting at seven, obviously there’s a good chance you lose wickets quickly and you have to play a different way. I think for me it’s learning how to do that as well as I can. Just because it’s not my natural game. Finding a way to be able to, quite early on in my innings, put pressure back on the bowler rather than just batting.

This hundred will certainly taste better than his first four years ago due to the circumstances in which he got it. While he also proved to his critics and more so to himself that he truly belonged at this level.


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