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Cricket news - Foakes 'not thinking about' potential axe for Antigua Test

Foakes had a poor outing in the first Test.

Man of the series one minute, facing questions about your place in the side the next. That is the rather strange position that England wicket-keeper Ben Foakes finds himself in after the tourists' chastening defeat in the first Test in Barbados last week.

Given Foakes was man of the series in Sri Lanka before Christmas, where he scored a hundred on Test debut in Galle, calls for him to be replaced might seem rather unfair. That is magnified by the possibility that he could be left out of England's team for the second Test in Antigua on Thursday through no real fault of his own but because the visitors may want to rebalance their side.

As strange as it seems, the presence of Foakes, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow in England's team, all three fine cricketers, has given the selectors a headache. They don't all fit into the team nicely even if, individually, they all have claim to be in England's final eleven and they all have claim to take their place behind the stumps, too.

In Barbados, Foakes, with the gloves, batted at eight - arguably a waste - while Buttler, who keeps for the white-ball teams but doesn't seem too fussed about doing the job for the Test side, was at six. Bairstow, who desperately still wants the gloves in Test cricket, was shoehorned in at number three in the final match in Sri Lanka after Foakes did well as his injury replacement earlier in the series and has remained there even though he isn't really happy. Clear? Crystal.

Yet the inclusion of all three in Barbados meant England had to play a five-man bowling attack at Kensington Oval and given none of Sam Curran, Moeen Ali or Adil Rashid bowled particularly well, it left Joe Root a bowler short. In Sri Lanka, that wasn't so much of a problem.

All three wicket-keepers were accommodated there in a number of ways, with all-rounders Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes batting at number three in the first two Tests, allowing England to play six bowlers with Foakes at number seven. Then, in the final match, when Sam Curran was injured, Bairstow was recalled to bat at three with Foakes at eight and England played just five bowlers.

In Barbados, they replicated the same balance of side as in the final Test in Colombo but, with far less spin on offer than in Sri Lanka and against a better side in West Indies, it was a tactic which didn't work out.

"It's a unique situation but it's fine, there's no awkwardness," said Foakes of the three wicket-keeper dynamic. "I didn't think I'd be in Sri Lanka, then I thought I would have one game and then Jonny would be back. I don't want to say I feel lucky to be here, but things have fallen into place and it's just up to me to take the opportunity."

It may be, however, that Foakes, who by his own admission had a poor game in Barbados, doesn't get that opportunity in the second Test. He made just two and five with the bat at Kensington Oval and dropped a tough chance off Ben Stokes in West Indies' second innings and while his performances in Sri Lanka would ordinarily give him some breathing space, given the issues with the balance of the side, things are not that straightforward.

"Those are things I don't think about," he insisted when asked about the uncertainty surrounding his position. "It will drive you crazy. I'm just preparing for the next game. If I get the nod, I get the nod. If not, then good luck to whoever does. I didn't perform last game, so I can't sit there and say 'Why did you drop me'. I did really well in Sri Lanka and I completely want to play the next game. But we lost by 300-odd runs and if a change is needed, a change is needed."

Whether Foakes keeps his place for the second Test or not, the 25 year-old admitted he is finding the Caribbean a tough place to keep wicket. "I find this a really tricky place to keep," he said. "There's a bit of uneven bounce, and it comes to you at different paces. There are some tricky outfields, too, with the ball bouncing in front of you. I was disappointed not to take that catch [off Stokes]. But as a fairly young keeper, it's about getting used to these conditions."

Somebody who has seen it all before is Stuart Broad, who was left out of the side for the match in Bridgetown partly because England had to fit in Foakes, Buttler and Bairstow. The 31 year-old fast bowler is expected to get a recall at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua this week. "He's bowling really well. He bowled quick in Sri Lanka. Very quickly," said Foakes of Broad. "He says the run-up is easier and more economical but he's definitely hitting my gloves hard."

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