Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes could play as specialist batsmen for England in Test series against Pakistan

Jos Buttler

Jos Buttler

England will consider picking Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes as specialist batsmen for the first Test as they try to include their brightest stars against Pakistan.
Such is the importance of the pair that they are in the frame for Lord’s even though Stokes is not fit enough to bowl in Durham’s current match against Hampshire and Buttler has established himself with England as a keeper-batsman.
It had been felt that if Buttler returned to Test cricket on July 14 he would take the gloves from Jonny Bairstow but England coach Trevor Bayliss made it clear that it is far from an automatic decision.

‘He’s certainly in contention, that’s for sure,’ said Bayliss, when asked if Buttler’s leading role in England’s 3-0 one-day series win against Sri Lanka had catapulted him into the frame to replace the indisposed Nick Compton.
‘I don’t think it’s a problem that he hasn’t played any red-ball cricket, not the way he plays. I personally think he’d be better if he played in Test cricket as he does in the white-ball game. That would be absolutely devastating. He certainly looks like he’s got a lot of confidence.’
Bairstow is desperate to retain the gloves in Test cricket and it would be a blow to a player in the form of his life if he lost them now, which England will take into account even though Buttler is considered the better keeper.
‘Jos could play as a batsman, I’m sure of that,’ said Bayliss. ‘He wouldn’t have problems in the field, just as Jonny didn’t in the one-day games. Jos played in the IPL as a fielder and he could handle it.’

Stokes is nearing full fitness after knee surgery and has been bowling in the nets, even though he is not expected to bowl against Hampshire, a situation that was believed to rule him out. Not so, says Bayliss.
‘He’s in contention for a batting spot if he’s fit,’ said Bayliss. ‘He’s playing in a four-day game as a batsman and might, depending on how he’s gone in the nets, bowl short spells. A guy who has made plenty of runs and a score of 250 four Tests ago has to be discussed.’
The inclusion of Stokes would have implications for Steven Finn or Chris Woakes and mean, initially, England would go into the series with only four frontline bowlers.
It all adds up to intriguing talks when the selectors meet on Thursday to pick a squad for the first of four Tests against a Pakistan side who are likely to provide tougher opposition than Sri Lanka.

The big concern is Jimmy Anderson, who has a stress fracture of his right shoulder blade, but Bayliss indicated he would be named in the squad and given every chance to prove his fitness.
‘I’m not sure the medical team know how long it will take for him to come back,’ said Bayliss. ‘There will be an ongoing assessment between now and the Test, giving him every chance to make himself available.’
If Anderson does not recover then Jake Ball looks sure to make his Test debut after being included in the squad for each of the three Tests against Sri Lanka.