Brook is the only change to the England XI that levelled the three-match series with a commanding victory in the second Test at Old Trafford after Bairstow was ruled out with a freak leg injury suffered playing golf.
This is how we will line up for our final Test of the summer! 💪🏴 #ENGvSA 🇿🇦 https://t.co/Qwm4Zm9Jbs
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Bairstow has been in stellar form this year, scoring 1,061 runs, including six centuries, in 10 Tests.
“Harry is someone who has been spoken about a lot as representing England going forward,” Stokes said at the Oval on Wednesday, on the eve of the deciding Test.
“It’s amazing how sometimes people’s opportunities get presented to them…. He deserved his opportunity to be in the squad initially and he deserves his opportunity this week.”
A Test debut for Harry Brook 👏🏴 #ENGvSA 🇿🇦
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The skipper said he felt “devastated” for Bairstow, who will also miss the T20 World Cup in Australia, which starts next month.
“He’s been a massive reason as to why we’ve had such a successful summer,” he said. “It was a freak accident.”
But all-rounder Stokes added: “The way in which our middle order has been playing this summer, I feel as if Harry is coming in, the way he goes about his game with the bat in his hand is pretty much a like-for-like replacement.
“He’s always going to look to take the bowling on, take the positive option. It’s obviously devastating to not have Jonny but I’m very excited we get a replacement with the skill Jonny possesses.”
Brook, 23, has played four Twenty20 internationals for England.
South Africa won the first Test at Lord’s by an innings and 12 runs, only for England to bounce back to win by an innings and 85 runs in Manchester during another match wrapped up inside three days.
“We know that South Africa are always going to stay in the game and stay in the moment,” said Stokes.
“We put the Lord’s defeat behind us and we concentrated on Manchester so I know that Dean (Elgar, the Proteas captain) and the South Africa team will be doing the same thing here.
“I think it’s great for the series that it goes down to the wire. I know that South Africa are going to come out firing but it’s how we respond to the questions that they ask us.”
Zak Crawley, Alex Lees, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (capt), Ben Foakes (wkt), Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, Ollie Robinson, James Anderson