County news April 6, 2016

Davies may leave Surrey to restate Test case

Play 01:10
Davies refuses to rule out leaving Surrey

Steven Davies has conceded he may need to leave Surrey to fulfil his England ambitions after it was confirmed that Ben Foakes will be preferred as the club's wicketkeeper for the start of the County Championship campaign.

Davies made his international debut as a wicketkeeper-batsman when he just 22 and soon left Worcestershire for Surrey in a high-profile move. But, having struggled with motivation for a while following the death of his friend and team-mate Tom Maynard, he gave up the gloves in May 2014 and has subsequently played as a specialist batsman.

Now, however, he has decided he would like to return to keeping. Reflecting at the end of last season, Davies realised that he probably had, at the age of 29, one last opportunity to earn a Test place and that his chances would be increased greatly if he offered himself as both a batsman and keeper.

The timing of that 2014 decision was unfortunate. Matt Prior was just coming to the end of his international career and England were not convinced that Jos Buttler or Jonny Bairstow were ready as his replacement. Had Davies felt able to continue, he would have had a great chance of winning the opportunity to succeed Prior.

As it is, he may face a struggle to regain lost ground. Not only has he fallen behind the likes of Bairstow and Buttler in the battle for the England gloves, but he might be considered third choice at Surrey. Gary Wilson, who kept for most of the 2015 season, is also vying for the gloves.

"My goal this season is to get back into the England side," Davies told ESPNcricinfo. "And the best route for me to do that in Test cricket is to take the gloves back again.

"I batted really well last year and, at the end of the season, I sat back, looked over my season again and thought about where I wanted to be. I felt super motivated and wanted to push for one last time. I'm 29 years old now, so time is kind of running out for me, but I wanted to give it one last push and try and play Test cricket."

Asked if that meant he might have to move counties, he replied: "Possibly, possibly. If the opportunity is not here - and obviously I love playing for Surrey and my focus is on Surrey - but we'll see how the season goes and maybe reassess at the end of the year.

"Obviously we're blessed with a number of keepers here so it's about me waiting for my opportunity. I know it's not going to be easy for me to get back into the side as the keeper but I think it's important to show that I'm committed to it.

"I don't regret my [2014] decision. There may have been a chance there for me, but at the time I wasn't ready, there was stuff going on in my personal life and I didn't feel I could do it at the time. Now I feel super motivated and fit and strong ready to push my case again."

Foakes, aged 23, as long been highly thought of within the England set-up but, having emerged at Essex as the understudy to James Foster, has struggled to gain the gloves at a county. After moving to Surrey at the end of the 2014 season, he kept in just five Championship innings last season as Wilson was preferred.

But Alec Stewart, the Surrey director of cricket, saw enough to conclude that Foakes has the talent to do the job with distinction not just for the county but for England.

"I believe Ben has the potential to play for England in Test cricket," Stewart told ESPNcricinfo. "It's one of the reasons we signed him from Essex. He wasn't going to keep there because of James Foster. I saw him when he was 18 or 19 - alerted to him by Graham Gooch - and followed him and then [signed him], when the opportunity arose for him to keep wicket.

"Though he didn't keep regularly here last year, he kept more than he would have done for Essex. And he showed us that he has everything that will take him up to the highest level."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments