JONNY Bairstow will be the man to benefit after Kevin Pietersen was forced to pull out of the tour to New Zealand.
The Yorkshireman is the only remaining specialist batsman available to the selectors ahead of the Third and final Test against the Black Caps in Auckland starting this evening, British time.
Pietersen’s knee injury initially flared up before the warm-up game in Queenstown ahead of the Test series.
With the prospect of a cartilage operation, he faces up to eight weeks out which will almost certainly mean he won’t be back in time for the reverse two-match Test series between the countries with the First Test at Lord’s on May 16 and then Headingley on May 24.
The 32-year-old made a glorious return for England, after his summer of discontent and ‘reintegration’ in 2012, with a match-winning century in Mumbai on the way to a historic series success in India.
He was out first ball in the opening Test of this series in Dunedin before a battling half-century in Wellington in last week’s draw.
England will want him fully fit for the Ashes and his absence gives Bairstow an opportunity both in this final game and then when the Kiwis come to this country.
The Yorkshire batsman has not played a Test since featuring in that series-levelling win in Mumbai in November. He did make 95 and 54 as a replacement for Pietersen against South Africa at Lord’s last August.
Pietersen follows Graeme Swann out of the tour. The off spinner has had surgery on his right elbow.
* Yorkshire chairman Colin Graves has been named deputy chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board after Dennis Amiss decided not to seek re-election.