If the latest new beginnings in Jonny Bairstow’s test career told us anything, it was that the old Jonny Bairstow never really left. And thank goodness for that.
Moments after he was handed lbw to Mohammed Siraj for 37 – a diligent at bat forged from the ruins of 62 for five – he could see a steward taunting at the bottom of the stairs leading to the England dressing room.
Not only had the stewards themselves—many in bright orange jackets—walked around too much for his liking, the spectators in the Oval pavilion weren’t exactly glued to their seats either. That, according to bystanders, was the core of the grumbling.
The latest new beginnings in Jonny Bairstow’s test career (above), taking the gloves and hitting 7 showed us that the old Jonny never really left – and thank goodness for that
The English wicketkeeper batsman made 37, but ended up on a swinging Mohammed Siraj ball
What this had to do with a ball from Siraj that the CricViz analysts suggested was the best of the test, as it combined extravagant seam movement with speed and accuracy, was unclear. But no one thought it wise to ask.
Maybe it’s something from Yorkshire. Brian Close was famously never dated through his own fault. If it weren’t for the 12th man who brought him the wrong-tasting gum, it was because the previous batter had misinformed him.
“You told me it was swinging,” complained Close, who had become the third victim of a hat-trick. “You didn’t tell me it was sewing too.” Ray Illingworth, one of his successors as captain of Yorkshire, continued the tradition.
On one occasion, he blamed his downfall on the umpire who gave him the wrong guard. On another, in the Caribbean, he thought a small fruit had grown in the field during the lunch break.
In all likelihood, Bairstow was just annoyed with himself, although the chastised flight attendant – who lay with his prostate on the stairs absorbing the deafening noise, to avoid another charge of distracting batsmen – might have seen it differently.
This game represents a huge moment in a career that is both 78 Tests old and still strangely unformed.
Bairstow and Ollie Pope (right) came in with England in trouble, but they stabilized the ship well
But with speculation about Jos Buttler’s Test future missing out on this game as he awaits the birth of his second child, Bairstow knows he has a chance to take the wicketkeeping position he believes has been all along. should have been his.
Thanks to the use of Craig Overton as a night watchman, he was back in 7th position which has yielded more test runs (1465) and hundreds (three) with a higher average (38) than any of the other six slots England has asked him to do. since its debut in 2012.
Things might have ended in indecent haste, as Umesh Yadav – on a pitch after the sacking of Overton and Dawid Malan – judged an lbw scream before Bairstow had scored. DRS had the missing leg. The close shave seemed to act as a catalyst.
With England likely to concede a lead in the first innings, Bairstow and Pope counterattacked.
Pope took over three boundaries from the first after mid-morning drinks from Shardul Thakur, and Bairstow responded with three from Siraj’s second. During those exchanges, England knocked out nearly 15% of India’s 191 — and the mood changed.
Bairstow may have been thrown off course by Jarvo, the pesky field intruder who bumped into him before being dragged away by the stewards. But he discharged Jasprit Bumrah’s next ball to the ground, then walked it from mid-on for another four. Soon, Yadav disappeared from extra cover.
Bairstow collided with a pitch invader (left) and later berated a steward at the dressing room
Thanks to England’s riposte, they reached lunch with a better heart at 139 for five, and the sixth wicket score had reached 91 when Siraj got one to javelin back into Bairstow’s pads.
Unlike Pope, who has moved his guard from off to center, Bairstow has responded to being bowled too often by covering his stump, which has created another problem: This was his sixth lbw in 11 Test innings.
Equally frustrating was his resignation for 37 – the eighth time in 2021 that he has fallen between 28 and 47. Even the only half-century he’s made this year, 57 in the opening innings at Lord’s, left fans wanting more.
But for all that, there was something reassuring about his performance yesterday, and without him England could have easily capsized.
If nothing else, it was all quintessentially Bairstow: round-shouldered combativeness, snappy counter-punches, purposeful running, and an unerring sense of me against the world.
Even when the world, for a few awkward minutes, was a steward who got more than he bargained for, but always has a story to tell the kids.