Bairstow defends decision to play in the IPL instead of County Championship | Jonny Bairstow

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Jonny Bairstow has defended his decision to play in the Indian Premier League instead of the early stages of the County Championship after blitzing 136 runs off 92 balls on the final day of the second Test against New Zealand to swing the game in England’s favour and earn himself the player of the match award.

Bairstow returned to England on 23 May following his stint with Punjab Kings in the IPL, giving him just 10 days to reacclimatise to red-ball cricket and prepare for the start of the Test summer. He then scored one and 16 in the two innings of the first Test at Lord’s and eight in the first innings of the second, before clicking spectacularly into form in the final two sessions of a dramatic Test at Trent Bridge.

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“A lot of people were saying I shouldn’t be at the IPL and I should be playing county cricket,” Bairstow said. “But you are playing against the best in the world at the IPL. Being able to have those gears, to be able to switch them up and switch them down, is important. People say it would be fantastic if you had four games of red-ball cricket under your belt. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen in the current scheduling of everything and we’re very fortunate to be able to play in some of the best competitions against the best players in the world.

“When it comes to pressure situations, the more you’re able to put yourself under pressure the better. Because it’s those situations that you’ve gone through in the past, whether that be in the IPL, in one-day cricket or in red-ball cricket, that you’re able to call upon on evenings like that. And those opportunities and environments, whether they be for good or bad, are the things that [mean] you’re able to produce performances like we as a group have done in this game, in the last game, and hopefully will do going forward.”

Bairstow scored only 12 off the first 24 balls he faced at Trent Bridge on Tuesday, before slipping into top gear and pummelling 124 off the next 68. In all his innings featured only 18 singles, with 21 boundaries including seven sixes.

“The amount of pride that it gives me to play Test cricket for England, first and foremost, is huge. And then also to make the contributions that have done, especially when you can say backs are against the wall or it’s tricky periods of play,” he said.

“I’m hugely proud of the fact that sometimes when the chips are down, you have to stand up. That might be something that you’re born with, it might be something that you have deep down that springs out of you at those moments. But as a cricketer, that’s something I’m very proud of.”

Joe Root’s first-innings century at Trent Bridge has helped him overtake Marnus Labuschagne and return to No 1 in the International Cricket Council’s Test batting rankings. It was the Yorkshireman’s fourth Test ton of 2022 and he now has seven in the last 12 months.

Labuschagne has scored a total of 505 runs in that time (in 14 innings) at an average of 38.8 while Root has managed 1,480 (in 27 innings), averaging 57.8. Steve Smith is third in the rankings, ahead of Pakistan’s Babar Azam and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson.

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Less happily for England the ICC have fined them 40% of their match fee and deducted two World Test Championship points for their slow over rate in the second Test, having calculated that they were two overs short of their target after time allowances were taken into consideration. The ICC fines players 20% of their match fees and deducts one WTC point for every over their side fails to bowl in the allotted time.

The New Zealand all-rounder Michael Bracewell has tested positive for Covid-19 following his side’s defeat to England at Trent Bridge. Bracewell experienced symptoms on Wednesday morning and became the second squad member to contract the virus after captain Kane Williamson, who missed the second Test after a positive result on the eve of the match. He will now isolate for five days but should be available to play in the final Test at Headingley next Thursday.

The rest of the New Zealand squad are undertaking a fresh round of rapid antigen tests on Wednesday to determine if there has been a wider outbreak within the group.

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