Victory over Australia by three wickets at Headingley saw England cut into Australia’s lead, making it 2-1 in the series with two to play. Bairstow, however, endured another tough game, scoring 12 and 5 and missing more catches behind the stumps.
Having started the series with a run-a-ball 78, the Yorkshireman has scored just 63 more runs and is currently averaging 23.50 from six innings. A far cry from his form last summer of 681 runs at 75.66.
However, it is his form as keeper which has led to talk of a recall for Ben Foakes, who Bairstow replaced after returning from a serious break of his left leg which ruled him out for eight months. Bairstow has missed numerous chances in the series so far, including a missed stumping – opportunities that made have swung things England’s way in the first two Tests.
Following that first innings at Edgbaston, his most notable contributions have been carrying off a Just Stop Oil protester on day one of the second Test at Lord’s, before finding himself at the centre of controversy on day five when he was stumped by Australia wicketkeeper Alex Carey after leaving his crease for what the Englishman believed was the end of the over.
The decision to retain Bairstow in a 14-man group and not recall Foakes is a show of support from captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum. Bairstow still has plenty of credit in the bank given how he inspired England’s upturn in form last summer and there is belief he can make an impact in the fourth Test, which begins in eight days’ time, and help England square the series.
Another consideration will be the No. 3 position. Both Harry Brook and Moeen Ali fulfilled the role with limited returns at Headingley, but Brook’s vital 75 at No.5 in the successful fourth-innings chase of 251 could mean Moeen retains the role, allowing Brook to occupy his preferred position.
England squad for fourth men’s Ashes Test: Ben Stokes (capt0, Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Dan Lawrence, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Josh Tongue, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo