Remember last week when Joe Denly was picked for England because he happened to be nearby and wasn’t Keaton Jennings? Well it looks like those selection criteria were a little too exacting so they may have to soften them a bit.
You may be aware that there are fitness concerns about Foakes, Stokes and Woakes, but let us alert you to the fact that all the time you spend thinking about how their names rhyme was time you didn’t spend thinking about who’d play instead of each of them.
Chris Woakes was never going to play anyway, so that has no real impact, and if Ben Stokes doesn’t play, that’s straightforward enough – Sam Curran will come back into the side without actually missing a game having just been dropped for Mark Wood.
But what if Ben Foakes is injured? Well that’s easy, you think. Jonny Bairstow could keep wicket, or even Jos Buttler. But those two are already in the side, so that frees up a batting spot.
Guess who’s a batsman: Keaton Jennings.
Guess what England don’t have in their squad: any other batsmen.
England almost always have a player who pretty much everyone agrees shouldn’t be playing. You could call him a scapegoat if you wanted, but it’s more that England cricket fans like to prey on the vulnerable.
It’s usually a batsman. In the not-too-distant past, James Vince fulfilled the role. Every time he nicked one, everyone said they didn’t know what the selectors saw in him. Going further back, for a very long time it was Ian Bell, which seems fairly bonkers now.
It’s definitely Keaton Jennings at the minute. A combination of visible haplessness and scoring all his runs on away tours that no-one sees means he’s the man most likely to make people screw up their faces in incredulity.
If Ben Foakes still has a brisket for a hand and can’t play, there’s going to be an awful lot of incredulous face-screwing in this third Test. We’re quite looking forward to it.