JONNY Bairstow has returned to the England squad for the third Investec Test against Australia, in place of Gary Ballance.
Bairstow last played Test cricket in the final match of England’s 2013-14 Ashes whitewash defeat in Sydney, and is rewarded for his brilliant form for Yorkshire this summer.
For the third Test, Ian Bell will move up the order to bat at threeJames Whitaker
His county team-mate Ballance, by contrast, has paid the price in an otherwise unchanged 13-man squad after his run of poor scores continued at number three as Australia levelled the Ashes with a 405-run trouncing of their hosts at Lord’s on Sunday.
Ballance has struggled at number three this year, having made a fine start to his Test career in his first summer in that position 12 months ago.
England also announced yesterday that they will move four-time Ashes-winner Ian Bell back up to the pivotal number three position on his home ground at Edgbaston next week.
National selector James Whitaker said: “For the third Test, Ian Bell will move up the order to bat at three – followed by Joe Root, with Jonny Bairstow coming in at five.
“Jonny has worked extremely hard at his game, and his record for Yorkshire speaks for itself. He fully deserves this opportunity.”
Bairstow has been racking up the runs for Yorkshire – including five centuries and an average of more than 100 in the LV= County Championship – and also made a match and series-winning 83 not out for England when called up in place of the injured Jos Buttler for the final Royal London one-day international against New Zealand at Chester-le-Street last month.
Ballance therefore moves in the opposite direction, back to Yorkshire, on the back of just one Test half-century in his last ten innings.
A technical glitch, moving deep back in his crease, has also been identified by some as a potential reason for his problems.
Whitaker said: “Gary was naturally disappointed to miss out on this occasion – however, we feel that he will benefit from some time in county cricket to rediscover his form.
“He has already had plenty of success at international level – and as selectors, we are confident Gary will play a significant role for England in the future.”
Bell, like Ballance, has been worryingly unproductive since making a century in the drawn Test series in the West Indies.
His output has dwindled to just 128 runs in his last 12 Test attempts, almost half of those coming in his second-innings 60 to help England go 1-0 up in the Ashes at Cardiff earlier this month.
England’s new coach Trevor Bayliss admitted after the landslide defeat at Lord’s that there are inevitable concerns over the team’s alarming susceptibility so far this year to top-order collapses.
The Australian confirmed then that the topic would be discussed at length in yesterday morning’s selection meeting – and the consequence is just one change in personnel but two others deployed in positions to which they are not currently accustomed.
Adam Lyth was the other batsman perhaps most at risk of losing his place, after a torrid match at Lord’s where he made just seven runs in his two innings and dropped his opposite number David Warner on nought.
Captain Alastair Cook’s opening partner has played only four Tests, however, and made a century on his home ground at Headingley against New Zealand two months ago.
England have therefore kept faith, and it may be a further boost to Lyth’s confidence that he has also qualified for an automatic increment contract on the basis of those four caps to date.
The selectors, meanwhile, must hope they have come up with the right solution to address obvious deficiencies highlighted in the four-day defeat at HQ.
Whitaker added: “The break before the third Test will give the squad time to reflect on the series so far and a chance to focus on playing the positive, confident cricket we saw in Cardiff.”