The England coach Trevor Bayliss has admitted England's wicketkeeping position remains a debating point for the selectors ahead of the Test series against Pakistan.
Bayliss was as impressed as anyone with Jonny Bairstow's batting during the series against Sri Lanka - "nobody is hitting the ball better than Jonny," he said - but confirmed that Jos Buttler would keep wicket for the limited-overs games and revealed that other names were being considered for the Test team.
Bairstow claimed 19 dismissals against Sri Lanka - a record for an England keeper in a three-match series - but also missed four chances, including a straightforward effort off Chris Woakes at Lord's. He also missed, by conservative judgements, six chances in the four-match series against South Africa. While his position in the team as a batsman is beyond question after he contributed two centuries and was named Man of the Series, his future as keeper is less clear.
CricViz, the analytics company, gave Bairstow's keeping a rating of -111 for the Sri Lanka series. For comparison, they rated Dinesh Chandimal -22 for the same games, gave Sarfraz Ahmed a rating of +20 for the Pakistan series and AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and Dane Vilas ratings of -62, -21 and +41 respectively for the series against England in South Africa. Bairstow finished that series with a -28 rating.
Describing himself as an "old school" judge who would always prefer to pick the "best wicketkeeper" rather than a batsman who can do a job with the gloves, Bayliss mentioned Ben Foakes, the young Surrey wicketkeeper, as one man under consideration.
"I am a little bit old school," Bayliss said. "I think the best wicketkeeper should be the wicketkeeper.
"Our wicketkeepers - and there are three of them if you include Sam Billings - are young and inexperienced, I suppose. They are probably batters who are wicketkeepers.
"I've said to all three of them that I believe the wicketkeeper in the team should be the best we have. Basically just to make sure they continue to work hard. Jonny, Jos and Sam certainly have stepped it up with the practice.
"Personally I believe it is a wicketkeeping position. Ben Foakes is one name that has been mentioned, along with two or three others. From the selectors' point of view, it is something we are going to have to work through and think pretty carefully about."
Foakes is only 23 and enjoying his first season as first-choice wicketkeeper at Surrey. While he developed at Essex, he was obliged to leave for more opportunity as his progress was blocked by the brilliant James Foster. But Foakes was identified as a player of great potential long ago: he was selected for the Lions side for the 2012-13 tour of Australia before he had played a List A game and has been invited to train with the full England team several times since.
He is a good enough batsman to have played for much of last year as a specialist and, while Bayliss has yet to see him play, Surrey's director of cricket, Alec Stewart, rates him as "the most talented keeper in the country" and Andy Flower has long recognised him as one for the future.
Whether that future is now remains uncertain. In an ideal world, Foakes would be allowed to continue to develop in the county game before being exposed to the pressure of international cricket. But the England management are concerned about the prospect of a winter where England will play seven Tests in Asia, with the keeper expected to spend a large amount of time standing up to the stumps against the spinners.
In the short term, Bayliss has reassured Buttler that he remains first-choice keeper in the limited-overs sides and suggested he could go some way to convincing the selectors to recall him to the Test team with a strong performance in the white-ball matches. Realistically, though, he will need to prove himself in the County Championship with Lancashire; he has not played a first-class game since he was dropped from the Test team in October and he is not scheduled to play one ahead of the Pakistan series.
"Jos will be the wicketkeeper for the limited-overs games," Bayliss said. "He has been in the last few white-ball series.
"Runs could put him back in the frame for the Test side, but the selectors would like to see him score runs in the four-day game to show us he's back in form. We know the devastating player he can be. It's a bit unfortunate we don't have any games for another couple of weeks, but he will get his opportunity I'm sure."
Bayliss also hinted that Scott Borthwick was in pole position to replace Nick Compton as England's No. 3 against Pakistan. While he is another player Bayliss has yet to see play in the flesh, his record on Durham's tricky surfaces is exceptional. He has passed 1,000 first-class runs in each of the most recent three seasons and also offers legspin bowling - he won a Test cap as a spinner in early 2014 - and strong fielding.
"I haven't actually seen him bat," Bayliss said. "But the feedback I've got is that he is a player who is in form. He is a tough sort of a cricketer playing at Durham where sometimes the wickets have got a little bit more in them. He is very enthusiastic; a great guy to have in the team. But he's not the only one. There's a few others around that could get a game."