England captain Ben Stokes said he was excited at the prospect of Harry Brook’s Test debut after confirming that the Yorkshire batter would replace the injured Jonny Bairstow in the series final against South Africa. Brook is the only change to the England XI to tie the three-game streak with an impressive second Test win at Old Trafford after Bairstow was ruled out with a freak leg injury sustained while playing golf. Bairstow was on top form this year, scoring 1061 runs, including six centuries, in 10 tests.
“Harry is someone who has been talked about a lot as a representative of England in the future,” Stokes said at the Oval on Wednesday, on the eve of the decisive Test.
“It’s amazing how sometimes people are presented with opportunities… He deserved his chance to be on the roster initially and he deserves his chance this week.”
The skipper said he felt “stunned” for Bairstow, who will also miss the T20 World Cup in Australia, which starts next month.
“He’s been a huge reason why we’ve had such a successful summer,” he said. “It was a freak accident.”
But all-rounder Stokes added: “The way our middle class is playing this summer, I feel like Harry is coming in, the way he plays his game with the bat in his hand is pretty much like substitution.
“He will always try to take over the bowling, take the positive option. Of course it’s devastating not to have Jonny, but I’m very excited that we get a replacement with the skill that Jonny possesses.”
Brook, 23, has played four Twenty20 internationals for England.
South Africa won the first Test at Lord’s by an innings and 12 runs, only for England to bounce back to win with an innings and 85 runs at Manchester in another match completed in three days.
“We know South Africa will always be in the game and in the moment,” Stokes said.
“We have put the Lord’s defeat behind us and have concentrated on Manchester so I know that Dean (Elgar, the captain of Proteas) and the South African team will do the same here.
“I think it’s great for the series that it takes it to the extreme. I know South Africa is going to shoot, but it’s how we respond to the questions they ask us.”
Zak Crawley, Alex Lees, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (capt), Ben Foakes (wkt), Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, Ollie Robinson, James Anderson
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