Dan Lawrence or Ben Foakes - who should England pick for the 1st Test vs India?

Daniel Lawrence (L) and Ben Foakes (R)
Daniel Lawrence (L) and Ben Foakes (R)

One of the most anticipated Test series of the year will be played between Team India and England when the former host five Test matches. The opening Test game is scheduled to take place at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad from January 25.

With England's aggressive style of play in the recent months, and India's unbeaten record at home, the upcoming series is expected to be a spicy affair.

While the Brendon McCullum-coached side have been the most fearsome batting units of late, there has been a lot of talk about how England's batting line-up could shape up in the spin-friendly conditions in India.

Another question that has popped up as England prepare for the first Test is the selection dilemma between Dan Lawrence and Ben Foakes that has captured the attention of cricket enthusiasts.

The unavailability of Harry Brook for the entire series has added the possibility of either one of Lawrence or Brook to feature in the playing XI.

Both players bring unique strengths to the team, and the decision of who to pick for the upcoming Test match is generating significant debate. Analyzing their recent performances, individual capabilities, and the team's requirements will be crucial in making the right choice to strengthen England's lineup for the challenging series against India.

On that note, let's take a look at some key factors to try and answer the Dan Lawrence vs Ben Foakes debate:


Recent form

Surrey v Northamptonshire - LV= Insurance County Championship
Surrey v Northamptonshire - LV= Insurance County Championship

It's been quite a while since both Lawrence and Foakes have played Test cricket for England. While Foakes featured in the away Test series against New Zealand in February, 2023, Lawrence played his last Test in the West Indies back in March, 2022.

However, both of the players played England's domestic County Championship Division One 2023, that held from April 6 to September 29. The two individuals were key figures for their respective sides and had a great domestic campaign.

Lawrence played 11 first-class games for Essex, and scored 801 runs at an average of 38.14, including three hundreds and two fifties. Although, he didn't have enough contributions as a spinner.

Foakes, meanwhile, racked up 716 runs at an average of 39.77. He notched up three tons and a half-century to his name as well. Apart from this, Foakes, being a specialist wicket-keeper, ended up the tournament with the most dismissals (56) as a keeper at a rate of 2.24 dismissals per innings.


Record in the subcontinent

Daniel Lawrence for England
Daniel Lawrence for England

Batting in subcontinent conditions can be challenging for overseas batters. Both Lawrence and Foakes have played a handful of games in the Asian conditions and let's take how have they fared.

Lawrence, who has an experience of playing ten Test innings in Asia for England, has accumulated just 248 runs at an average of 27.55. This includes two half-centuries.

Foakes, meanwhile, has comparatively fared better than Lawrence in the Asian conditions. The 30-year-old has made 419 runs at an average of 41.90 across 13 innings, including two half-centuries and a superb hundred against Sri Lanka in Galle in 2018.


Record in India

Daniel Lawrence and his English teammates vs India in India
Daniel Lawrence and his English teammates vs India in India

Fortunately for England, both Lawrence and Foakes have the previous experience of playing in the Indian conditions. Both the individuals were part of the four-match Test series in 2021, which India won 3-1.

With the bat, Lawrence did slightly better than Foakes in the series as he made 149 runs at 24.83 per match. Foakes, meanwhile, scored a paltry 78 runs at an average of 15.60.

While Foakes had a series to forget with the bat, he did superbly behind the stumps and inflicted seven dismissals, including three stumpings across three Tests.


Who offers what?

Surrey v Northamptonshire - LV= Insurance County Championship
Surrey v Northamptonshire - LV= Insurance County Championship

Despite having some similar numbers in recent first-class matches and a great batting technique with them, both Lawrence and Foakes offers more than their batting for England.

Lawrence, who has played so much white-ball cricket for franchise across the world, is a batting all-rounder, who can roll his arm over. The 26-year-old can offer a viable off-spin option, that could be quite handy in the Indian conditions.

Foakes, meanwhile, is an out-and-out Test specialist, who is a premier wicket-keeper. The traditional batter has a sound wicket-keeping skills and kept wonderfully the last time England toured India.

Apart from Foakes, the only wicket-keeping option for England would be Jonny Bairstow. However, Bairstow's keeping came under scrutiny during the Ashes 2023, where the Yorkshire lad dropped a few catches across the series.


Final verdict

Daniel Lawrence and Jonny Bairstow for England vs Sri Lanka
Daniel Lawrence and Jonny Bairstow for England vs Sri Lanka

England face a necessary conundrum going into the high-octane Test series in India. They will be having a couple of combinations to choose from.

First, they can play Dan Lawrence as a batter in the middle-order, who can even provide some assistance with his off-spin bowling, that already lacks experience for England.

This means that the visitors then have to play Jonny Bairstow as a specialist keeper, which can go either way. While Bairstow's keeping has been iffy in recent times, he has previously kept in the English Test side in India.

The second combination that England could opt for is the prospect of including Ben Foakes in the playing XI as a pure wicket-keeper. This way they can accommodate Bairstow in the side without having him to be the gloveman behind the stumps.

In comparison to Bairstow, Foakes is a far better wicket-keeper, having kept wickets right from early days in his career. Playing Foakes would also mean that England might not be able to use Lawrence's spin bowling. However, despite Lawrence missing out, England can as many as three spin bowling options, given that they play two specialist spinners.

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Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee
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