Harry Brook absence could ‘balance up’ England’s XI in India Test series, says Phil Tufnell

Harry Brook has been replaced by Dan Lawrence in England’s squad (Picture: Getty)

Ex-England star Phil Tufnell says Harry Brook’s absence in India could ‘balance up the side’ as it may free up space for both Ben Foakes and Jonny Bairstow in the XI.

England are preparing for one of their toughest tests yet since Brendon McCullum took over the reins and head into the eagerly anticipated five-match Test series against India without batting sensation Brook, who has returned home for personal reasons.

Surrey’s Dan Lawrence has been called up to the squad in place of the Yorkshireman, who has been a revelation since making his debut against South Africa at the Oval back in September 2022.

On Monday, India were dealt a blow of their own ahead of the first Test in Hyderabad, starting on Thursday, after it was announced that a personal matter had also ruled Virat Kohli out of the first two matches.

But having lost just three Tests at home in 11 years, Tufnell feels the hosts remain strong favourites to come out on top – with England failing to win a series in India since as far back as 2012.

However, the legendary former spin bowler believes Brook’s departure actually removes an ‘awkward conversation’ over selection involving wicket-keeper-batsmen Foakes and Bairstow.

‘I think we’re going to struggle a little bit,’ Tufnell told the Club Prairie Fire podcast.

Jonny Bairstow celebrates with England team-mate Ben Foakes

Bairstow and Foakes will both be desperate to play in Hyderabad (Picture: Getty)

‘It was a bit of a loss losing Harry Brook. He’s a fantastic player, great player of spin.

‘But I think, in a funny sort of way, that might just balance up the side a little bit because I think they’re definitely going to go with Foakes keeping. I think of those kinds of pitches you’ve got to go with Foakes.

‘I think then with Bairstow, there’s not going to be that awkward conversation with Jonny Bairstow.’

Tufnell believes hosts India are strong favourites (Picture: Getty)

Tufnell fears for England’s bowling options on spin-friendly pitches and feels the Ben Stokes’ men will need to have a ‘belting tour’ if they are to replicate what Alastair Cook and co managed 12 years ago.

‘I think what they’re really going to struggle with is the bowling line-up and what way they’re going to go with that,’ Tufnell added.

‘I think Jack Leach will play, I think Rehan Ahmed will play, Joe Root can bowl a little bit of spin as well and then it’s going to be Jimmy Anderson and perhaps Mark Wood.

‘I think they will take it pitch by pitch, venue by venue.

‘But the whole team have got to have a belting bloody tour if we’re going to come away with anything.’

MORE : Michael Atherton and Harbhajan Singh make predictions ahead of India v England Test series

MORE : ‘A major blow’ – Kevin Pietersen reacts as Harry Brook withdraws from England’s Test series in India

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