Gloucestershire’s James Bracey is in line to make his England debut as wicketkeeper in the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s, which gets under way on Wednesday; watch live coverage on Sky Sports Cricket
James Bracey is expected to make his Test debut as England wicketkeeper when they face New Zealand at Lord’s (Getty Images)
James Bracey admits the prospect of a Test debut as wicketkeeper was never “on his radar” until he learned of Ben Foakes’ freak injury in the build-up to England’s series against New Zealand.
The 24-year-old Gloucestershire player – an England batting reserve throughout the last year – is expected to take the gloves to launch his international career when the first Test begins on Wednesday at Lord’s, live on Sky Sports Cricket.
Bracey had envisaged making his Test debut as a specialist top-order batsman, but Foakes’ hamstring injury – sustained when he slipped after playing for Surrey just over a week ago – makes it almost certain he will fill in behind the stumps against the Black Caps.
“When I heard about Ben it was a bit of a shock,” said Bracey. “I didn’t really have it on my radar to be there as keeper.
England originally called James Bracey into the Test squad as a back-up batsman last year (PA Images)
“Obviously I was there as one of two but Ben was highly likely to take the gloves. When I got the call it didn’t really sink in straight away but once I’d arrived in London it started to become a distinct possibility.
“I’m really excited, but gutted for Ben. I had a lot of times this winter, trying to calculate how I’m getting in the team and how I’m going to get that opportunity.
“A lot of the time it happens when you don’t expect it and hopefully that time is now. I’ve benefitted from Ben having a freak accident and it’s an opportunity for me to not only show what I can do with the gloves but the bat.”
With first-choice wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, along with Jonny Bairstow, originally scheduled to be appearing in the Indian Premier League – now postponed until the autumn – Foakes had been in line to win his ninth Test cap at Lord’s.
Instead, the injured gloveman has provided a valuable source of information for his likely replacement, whose only previous experience of keeping wicket at Lord’s came during Gloucestershire’s County Championship win against Middlesex in early May.
“Ben’s been brilliant with me over the last 48 hours or so,” said Bracey. “He’s been really helpful and gave me a couple of tips in terms of keeping to the different bowlers and the challenges you might come up against.
“In Asia this winter, I’ve kept to a lot of the bowlers in practice. That’s why I reached out to Ben, because there are little things you don’t get from not keeping to people in games – it’s really key to identify that everyone is different to keep to.
“I’ve worked really hard on my keeping in the last couple of years since coming in on the Lions tour, with the other keepers and coaches, and I feel it’s in a really good place.
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“Obviously Gloucestershire’s attack is different to England’s and it’s going to be different in terms of the pace of the pitch and the slope at Lord’s, sometimes you’ve got to work with little angles.
“But it’s all stuff that the bowlers, Rooty and other guys have given me little tips on. I’m sure when it comes to Wednesday I’ll be in a good spot and as long as I show myself to be a good keeper, it’s definitely going to help me moving forward.”
Assuming England do hand the gloves to Bracey, the left-hander is likely to drop down the batting order to cope with his dual role – potentially going in at six or even seven rather than the top-three slot originally earmarked for him.
Ben Foakes’ injury has opened the door for Bracey to take over as wicketkeeper for the Lord’s Test
He added: “I’m prepared for the fact that, if I play, I might bat down at six or seven but I think with my skill set I can fit into that role as well. I’m not massively used to batting down the order but I’m confident I’ll jump into that.
“When it comes to batting, I like to be gritty and get in a battle. I’m not afraid to put in those hard yards and go through tough spells which I know I’m certain to come up against when I play Test cricket.
“We know New Zealand are going to put pressure on us and in those scenarios, I feel I can thrive and come good.”
Watch the first Test between England and New Zealand, at Lord’s, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10am on Wednesday.