Overton’s innings was pivotal to England’s fightback, as he and Jonny Bairstow added a record 241 for the seventh wicket after England’s top-order had collapsed to 55 for 6. But having been selected primarily as a 90mph bowler, he claimed a wicket in each innings in a display that didn’t quite show him at his best. Nevertheless, England’s captain, Ben Stokes, insisted that he had shown plenty to prove he has a bright international future ahead of him.
“That’s how sport at the top level can work sometimes,” Stokes said on the eve of the Edgbaston Test. “Obviously Jimmy didn’t feel he recovered as well as we would have liked to last week. So Jamie got his opportunity to show what he can do on a cricket field.
“He gave the best possible account of himself. And, he’s obviously someone that we see has a bright and long future for him going forward. It obviously must be very disappointing for him, but he can walk away knowing that he’s done everything that he possibly could have done last week, to really put his name forward to have a good career for England.”
As for Foakes, he was forced to sit out the third day of the Headingley Test after reporting a stiff back, before his positive Covid test led to Billings linking up with the squad that night to earn his second Test cap. He was not required to bat as England completed their 296-run chase on the final afternoon, but claimed a catch off Jack Leach in New Zealand’s second innings.
“Unfortunately Foakesy has not recovered as well as we’d have liked to,” Stokes said. “Sam is going to stay in the team and be our keeper.
“Hey [Foakes] just hasn’t really recovered from last week. He doesn’t feel like he could give the best account of himself this week, so we took the decision out of his hands and said, ‘get yourself better’.”
With the Edgbaston Test against India set to complete the five-match series that had to be postponed in 2021 due to a Covid outbreak, England have effectively made seven changes to the team that trails 2-1 in the series after last year’s Oval Test. Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed have since been replaced at the top of the order by Zak Crawley and Alex Lees, with Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Ollie Robinson the other absentees.
Stokes himself was one of the players who sat out last year’s matches, after taking a mental-health break from the game while recuperating from a badly broken finger. And while he said he had not watched much of the action last time around, he was under no doubt about the threat that India would pose, having also effectively switched captains mid-series, with Virat Kohli stepping down from the role.
“We just beat the best team in the world 3-0,” Stokes said, referencing New Zealand’s status as World Test Champions. “India are obviously a completely different opposition, a different dynamic of team, but we are concentrating on ourselves. We understand what we do well, but we have also take into account who we’re playing against. Just because the opposition changes doesn’ t mean that we’re going to change.”
Asked if England had it in them to get even more attacking in their approach, after three dynamic displays against New Zealand, Stokes replied: “If there’s a team that can, it’s us.”
Crawley is the one regular selection in England’s ranks who hasn’t produced a significant contribution to their run of three wins in a row. But Stokes was adamant that he would receive all the support he needs to rediscover his most imposing form, despite a top score of 43 in six innings.
“Before we’d even played a Test match, the squad was picked on the basis that every player in every position is the best player in England to carry us forward in the way that we want to,” Stokes said. “This team, and this squad, is going to be given a lot of time to perform. Zak Crawley is still in my plans, and Brendon’s plans going forward, to make this Test team great again.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket