Ben Foakes has spent much of the past 12 months watching from the sidelines – but 2022 could be the year he returns to centre stage.

Surrey’s wicketkeeper missed most of last season after a freak dressing room accident, slipping on the floor and ripping a hamstring, which put him out from May until the final match of the campaign in late September.

It cost almost certainly cost him at least two Test appearances against New Zealand – he has made eight intermittently since his debut in the autumn of 2018 – and drastically reduced his chances of inclusion in the current Ashes series.

The 28-year-old did make it to Australia but only as part of the shadow Lions squad, returning with most of the group just before Christmas when many thought he should have stayed, not least after making 73 against Australia A at Brisbane.

So, while back in the role of spectator again, Foakes’s fortune may finally turn when England have to pick themselves up from a disastrous tour in which they were 3-0 down from as many Tests before this week’s fourth match at Sydney, having already waved farewell to the Ashes, and dreading another whitewash.

Your Local Guardian: Ben Foakes batting for Surrey with Ollie Pope Photo: Mark SandomBen Foakes batting for Surrey with Ollie Pope Photo: Mark Sandom

Foakes’s glovemanship, last on view at international level when he kept in three Tests of England’s tour to India last winter, has always drawn admiration. And the struggles of Jos Buttler in Australia, dropping several chances, has only added to the feeling that England need to start playing their best keeper again if they want to turn around a dismal run of results in 2021, rather than continue with the likes of Buttler and Jonny Bairstow in the hope they will score more runs in order to compensate for mistakes behind the stumps.

Foakes already has one Test century, made on debut, and his overall average of 31 stacks up quite well against some of the specialist batsmen who have featured in recent times.

Once England complete the Ashes series – they are due to move on to Hobart for the final match in mid-January – then a prolonged inquest looks likely, although it appears to have already started, which could result in any number of changes on and off the field.

Buttler maintains he wishes to continue at Test level but it would be no surprise if both he and Bairstow increasingly focus on the shorter white ball matches in the future. England travel to West Indies in March for a two-Test series and it could be a very different-looking side taking the field.

Whether it includes Surrey’s two Australian tourists, Rory Burns and Ollie Pope, are among the questions. County captain Burns was England’s second highest scorer in 2021, behind Joe Root, but also set a wholly unwanted new record by suffering six international ducks. The left-hander was omitted from last week’s Melbourne Test, having scored 51 over four innings of the first two Tests, and spent the time working on his technique with assistant coach Graham Thorpe in the hope of a recall for Sydney or Hobart.

Pope also suffered the axe after 48 runs in those two matches and, following a year of ins and outs, may have to work his passage back into the side. Having just turned 24, he remains highly regarded and seen as an international player with a strong future but two serious shoulder injuries have clearly hampered his development, as have a lack of senior players around him scoring runs.

It might be that Surrey, so often affected by a bevy of international call-ups, see more of the pair next season – should the ECB ever unveil the fixtures, now due out sometime this month – which could only boost their prospects of success.