Bairstow to keep wicket for England as Buttler ruled out of fourth India Test

Jonny Bairstow will keep wicket for England in the fourth Test against India, starting on Thursday at the Oval, following confirmation that Jos Buttler will miss the match – and possibly the series finale at Old Trafford a week later – to take paternity leave.

Bairstow, 30, was stripped of the Test gloves at the conclusion of the 2019 Ashes and told to focus on forcing his way back as a specialist batsman by the former national selector, Ed Smith, in a decision which rankled with the Yorkshireman at the time.

But with the current India series locked at 1-1 following England’s impressive innings victory at Headingley, the impending birth of Buttler’s second child has presented Bairstow with the chance to restate his case in a 15-man squad that also includes Chris Woakes following a frustrating 12-month absence.

Chris Silverwood, the England head coach, said: “Jonny will take over wicketkeeping duties, which he is relishing. As we all know, he has the skills to seamlessly take over from Jos and the ability to score crucial runs in the middle-order if called upon.

“We would like to wish Jos and his family all the very best for the impending birth of their second child. Unfortunately he will miss this Test, and we’ll then see if he returns for the final Test at Emirates Old Trafford.”

The reshuffle also sees Sam Billings return as the reserve wicketkeeper, while Mark Wood is expected to be fit after missing the third Test with a shoulder injury. The fast bowler, who impressed with five wickets during the defeat at Lord’s, offers Joe Root, his captain, pace should the pitch at the Oval demand it.

Woakes could similarly see a winning attack broken up, offering an experienced alternative to Sam Curran at No 8. The Surrey man provides the variety of a left-arm angle but after three Tests this series has claimed only three wickets at 79 apiece, while his batting has disappointed since two useful cameos at Trent Bridge.

If so it would be a heartening return for Woakes. Through a combination of isolation periods, rest and rotation as a multi-format player and a recent bruised heel suffered when slipping on stairs, the 32-year-old has not played a Test since an impressive 2020 for which he was named the PCA men’s player of the year.

His comeback allows Saqib Mahmood to be released back to Lancashire after two unused appearances in the squad, with Craig Overton preferred at Headingley and claiming six wickets in a performance that Silverwood hailed as “relentless”.

But with the last three Tests of the series being played in the space of three weeks, England may yet decide that either Jimmy Anderson or Ollie Robinson, chief architects of their success with the ball in Leeds, still require a breather.

“What I don’t want to do is break them,” Silverwood said. “We’ve got a lot of cricket in front of us. The Tests are coming thick and fast now. They’re back-to-back. It is difficult.”

England will make a call on this once they begin training in London tomorrow, while Bairstow’s move behind the stumps – one which could become long-term after Buttler recently cast doubt on his intention to play in this winter’s Ashes – presents a chance for either Dan Lawrence or Ollie Pope in the middle order.

England squad: Joe Root (Yorkshire), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jonathan Bairstow (Yorkshire), Sam Billings (Kent), Rory Burns (Surrey), Sam Curran (Surrey), Haseeb Hameed (Nottinghamshire), Dan Lawrence (Essex), Dawid Malan (Yorkshire), Craig Overton (Somerset), Ollie Pope (Surrey), Ollie Robinson (Sussex), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire), Mark Wood (Durham).