Former England wicketkeeper Matt Prior believes Ben Foakes’ brilliant Test debut in Galle has given the selectors a “nightmare” decision to make.
Foakes completed a classy 107 on the second morning of the first Test against Sri Lanka, a game he would not have played had Jonny Bairstow been passed fit following an ankle injury.
The 25-year-old became the 20th Englishman to reach three figures on debut and the only gloveman other than Prior, who hit 126 not out against the West Indies in 2007.
“It was incredible. It’s a privilege to be here watching it,” said Prior, who is part of talkSPORT2’s commentary team in Sri Lanka.
“Sure, getting a debut hundred is phenomenal but in this innings in particular, to walk out at 103 for five and play in foreign conditions, with all the challenges that come with that, is just a huge, huge effort.
“Having spoken to him this morning he seems a very composed character. He isn’t going to be one of those that gets too high or too low, which bodes well for, fingers crossed, a long international career.
“England have now got themselves a bit of a conundrum.”
Quite how deep the conundrum is depends on Bairstow’s likely availability for the second Test at Pallekele.
The Yorkshireman has plenty of credit in the bank as both batsman and keeper and would expect to regain his dual role as soon as he is passed fit.
One option would be to promote Bairstow to the problem number three spot and leave the gloves on Foakes, but the former prefers to bat in the lower middle order.
“It’s going to be a selectors’ nightmare. It’s going to be a challenge,” said Prior.
“I believe you’ve got to pick the team that’s going to win you a Test match on any given day. That’s how you have to go about your selection, otherwise you can get too emotional about it.
“If it’s deemed that actually Ben Foakes isn’t in the XI that’s going to win a Test match in Kandy then you have to make that tough call.”
Prior hopes Bairstow’s past efforts are not overlooked in the debate but has urged the 29-year-old not to hurry back if he is not fully recovered from ligament damage.
Prior’s own career came to a premature end at 33 after an aggravated Achilles problem.
“I’ve learned from experience and unfortunately I couldn’t come back from it,” he said.
“There is the bravado of ‘oh I’m playing for my country, they’re going to have to wheel me off’ but it doesn’t get you very far, quite frankly.
“You’d rather go away, give yourself that extra week to come back fully fit so that you can perform at 100 per cent. Not only for yourself, but for your team.
“Jonny, fully fit, would have played this Test match, probably would have performed well, done well with the gloves and scored runs and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
“We don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth. If he is fully fit, then he should come back in to the team, for me. Whether he keeps wicket, that’s a whole other conversation.
“Whether you play Bairstow, Jos Buttler or Foakes as wicketkeeper, they are all good enough. They’re all international standard wicketkeepers.”