Foakes focused on England Test bow despite being behind others in pecking order

Jonny Bairstow has unquestionably made the Test wicketkeeper role his own, with his performances in front of the stumps especially and increasing assurance behind them too.

Uncapped Foakes has some significant admirers, however - not least former England captain Alec Stewart, who was so taken with the 24-year-old's performances for Surrey that at the start of the 2017 season he described him as the best wicketkeeper in the world.

Bairstow may nonetheless be deservedly immovable for the foreseeable future.

But like the Yorkshireman, Foakes brings some handy statistics with the bat into the equation - a first-class average of almost 42 which is superior to specialists James Vince and Dawid Malan, currently the likeliest inhabitants initially at least of England's problem number three and five slots against Australia.

Whichever of his skills can prove most persuasive, Foakes is quietly encouraged by the upward curve he has sustained following his move from Essex to The Oval three years ago.

"I am happy with the way I have been batting since I came to Surrey," he said.

"That is all I am trying to do, to learn.

"These days you have to do that as a wicketkeeper, so I am putting as much emphasis on my batting as I can."

He has logged the praise from Surrey's director of cricket and former Test wicketkeeper Stewart too, of course.

"I saw it ... and obviously had a few Indian fans jibing and bringing up MS Dhoni.

"I think to hear that is lovely."

When asked what he can do to keep Bairstow on his toes, though, Foakes' respectful reply was telling.

"Everything, very well!" he said.

"I think obviously Jonny is world-class - I can't (be) expecting to replace him."

Even so, as one of three members of a 16-man squad who are awaiting a debut, Foakes is not about to fit too snugly into the understudy role.

"Everything I am focused on is playing that first (Test) match - but if it doesn't happen then there are four more matches where I may be called upon.

"I just need to be focused, so that if at any point the team needs me I am ready."

  Ben Foakes averages almost 42 in first-class cricket
Ben Foakes averages almost 42 in first-class cricket