Yorkshire CCC’s Jonny Bairstow in battle for Ashes start

England head coach Chris Silverwood is weighing Jonny Bairstow’s experience against Ollie Pope’s promise as the pair go head-to-head for a spot in the first Ashes Test.

Ashes contenders: England's Ollie Pope, left,) and Haseeb Hameed during a nets session at The Gabba.
Ashes contenders: England's Ollie Pope, left,) and Haseeb Hameed during a nets session at The Gabba.

The middle-order pair were both in the team when England last lined up against India in September but the return of Ben Stokes – back and brimming with intent after a mental health break – means only one will make the cut at The Gabba on Wednesday.

Bairstow scored a fine century in Perth during the last Ashes tour in 2017 but has struggled for a statement innings since his recall at the start of the year and did little to further his cause in last week’s rain-affected warm-up match.

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That leaves him vulnerable to 23-year-old Pope, whose modest average of 32.16 over his first 20 caps has not shaken England’s faith.

Silverwood has no intention of being bounced into a premature decision by Australia’s early team announcement but he and captain Joe Root have just one more meaningful practice session in Brisbane to make the call.

Responding to the home side’s decision to post their XI three days ahead of schedule, Silverwood said: “If they feel confident enough to do that right now then good on them. If they feel in a place to do that, then great.

“It is not my job to make decisions for them. We will be keeping our options open as we always do.

“Jonny has good experiences and memories of playing here, he has been successful here before. Then you have the promise of young Ollie. We know he is a good player, and have to take in the fact the wickets here will suit the way he plays. We saw him get some good runs at the end of last summer at The Oval and we know his pedigree is very good.

“Those are all things that will be thrown in the mix and taken into consideration. It’s one of the talking points we have at the moment. As we stand it is about keeping a close eye on the two of them and we will make a decision closer to the time over who we think is the right man to go into that. Both of them are playing well at the moment in the nets so that is talking point as it stands.”

Silverwood was much less coy about Stokes’s status. “From a readiness point of view he looks good to go. He is a superstar, isn’t he?” said Silverwood.