England coach Bayliss stokes competition by confirming Ben will be back
The England coach admits Ben Stokes will force his way back in soon.
England’s one-day side may be riding high after their handsome series win over Australia but head coach Trevor Bayliss has warned somebody will have to make way when Ben Stokes returns.
Stokes has not played for England since an off-field incident in September but is due to rejoin the limited-overs squad in New Zealand next month after appearing at Bristol Magistrates’ Court on a charge of affray.
They have managed perfectly well without the all-rounder so far, wrapping up a richly deserved 4-1 series win Down Under, but there is no question Stokes’ presence improves the side.
His ability to hold down a place in the top six and provide an extra seam option makes the 26-year-old a prize asset and one who demands selection once available.
“It’s a good problem to have, and he might not fit back in straight away, but I think everyone knows he is coming back in the team at some stage,” Bayliss said.
“That keeps everyone on their toes, trying to score runs and putting their name forward to make sure they are not the ones who get pushed aside when he comes back.”
Jason Roy was dropped for last summer’s Champions Trophy semi-final and only returned after Stokes’ suspension but his record-breaking 180 in Melbourne should buy him an extended run.
That means one of Jonny Bairstow or Alex Hales are likeliest to feel the heat. Neither excelled during the Australia series but Hales appears closer to the edge after being asked to drop to number three and failing to impress.
His modest contribution consisted of just 100 runs in five innings, hardly something to shout from the rooftops but exactly one more run than captain Eoin Morgan managed.
The Dubliner’s patchy form has started to attract the attention of those wondering how to create a vacancy for Stokes, but Morgan’s value to the side extends far beyond what he offers at the crease.
He has been a key part of the tone shift in England’s white-ball cricket over the past two and a half years, inspires a fearless audacity from his fellow batsmen and is an increasingly canny skipper in the field.
Marshalling his bowling options with no Stokes was tricky, and doing so when Liam Plunkett pulled up lame in his second over at the SCG was doubly so, but he dealt serenely with every challenge.
“Morgs is the one leading the pack,” Bayliss said. “In his role as captain he is at the forefront of the way the team is playing. He is a very important part of this team.
“The way he has led this team out here was fantastic, especially that Sydney match when we were down a bowler. The way he handled the bowling group then was top class.
“He always talks to the boys about backing themselves and their ability and the way they play and he leads from the front.”
Bayliss is also confident current travails are not part of a permanent decline, particularly given Morgan’s track record of bouncing back to form and the fact he notched three one-day centuries in 2017.
“From a batting point of view, Morgs is one of those guys who goes through a bit of a spell like that and then out of the blue he comes in and makes a heap of runs,” Bayliss said.
“If he is going through a bit of a lean trot, which batters do, he still goes out and tries to play that same way. We have got seven batters that are able to make hundreds in one-day cricket. He is one of them.”