This week, Bairstow started batting in the Yorkshire nets and it is understood that he will aim to play a couple of games in the County Championship in May – potentially while keeping wicket – as he aims to reach full fitness in time for England’s next Test on June 1, against Ireland at Lord’s. The ECB are happy with Bairstow’s progress and are confident he will return in time to play a full part in the Ashes, which starts on June 22.
Bairstow broke his left leg and dislocated his ankle on September 2, days before the third and final Test of England’s home series against South Africa. He was playing golf with friends when he slipped and suffered multiple fractures in his fibula, which required a plate to be inserted when he underwent surgery a few days later, and also sustained ligament damage.
He has since missed all the cricket England have played, including the T20 World Cup where he was meant to open with his captain Jos Buttler. He has also missed tours to Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand and Bangladesh, as well as the ILT20 where he was due to play for Abu Dhabi Knight Riders.
Brendon McCullum, England’s Test coach, has previously indicated that Bairstow will come straight back into the side when fit, though finding a role for him will not be straightforward since Harry Brook, his replacement at No. 5, has made a stellar start to his international career, with four hundreds in his first six Tests.
Zak Crawley and Ben Foakes appear to be the most vulnerable players in the side, but leaving either out would necessitate a rebalancing of the side and McCullum has also warned against trying to “crowbar people in”.
Recognised as one of the world’s leading all-format batters, Bairstow’s absence is bound to have an impact on Kings’ strategy. Last IPL, Bairstow scored 253 runs in 11 innings, averaging 23.00 with a strike rate of 144.57, with two half-centuries. Initially, it may mean Bhanuka Rajapaksa is given an opportunity.
He kept his head high while bowling in the powerplay during the BBL and took 11 wickets in all, at an economy of 7.13. An all-format player, Short scored three centuries across first-class and List A cricket during the second half of Australia’s domestic season where he plays for his home state of Victoria.
Additional reporting: Alex Malcolm and Matt Roller