Jonny Bairstow is helping to make life more difficult for England’s Test selectors - but that is the way they like it.
Bairstow was the predictable choice to replace the injured Ravi Bopara in a 13-man squad to face the West Indies and is highly likely to make his Test debut as England’s number six at Lord’s on Thursday.
The 22-year-old is therefore set to emulate his late father David as a Test cricketer, having been chosen ahead of his England Lions captain James Taylor among others.
Bairstow’s first-innings 50 for the Lions at Northampton - Taylor hit a century - was only part of the persuasive case he has made this season for elevation following his six one-day international and six Twenty20 caps since a sparkling 50-over debut against India in Cardiff last September.
National selector Geoff Miller indicated nonetheless that it was a tough decision to choose between Bairstow and Taylor, while Samit Patel was the man most recently in possession in England’s last two Tests in Sri Lanka when Bopara had a side strain.
When Essex batsman Bopara suffered a torn thigh muscle bowling at Chelmsford two days ago, it became clear England would have to look to the Lions.
After nominating Bairstow in a squad also containing Steve Finn and Graham Onions among five seam options, Miller acknowledged runs against the West Indies had pressed the Yorkshireman’s claims.
“He obviously played well against an international attack, but he’s been doing well for Yorkshire for two years,” Miller said.
“We did discuss James Taylor. Jonny’s got the nod, but the point is now there are quite a few players knocking on the door.
“It’s making the job a little bit more difficult, but that’s how we want it; to be able to pick who we think is the best one.”
Miller has taken time to speak to Taylor and challenged him to restate his claims with more runs for his new county Nottinghamshire.
“You can’t pick everybody,” Miller added. “They’ve all got ‘fors’ and ‘againsts’.
“We had a long discussion. It was a close call. This does not close the door on James Taylor by any means.
“I’ve had a chat with him told him the decision and the reasons why.”