NASSER HUSSAIN: Jonny Bairstow is hitting it better than he ever has and in full control… he epitomises ‘Bazball’, and is looking more compact and secure whilst playing the best cricket of his career
- Jonny Bairstow is playing the best cricket of his career for England right now
- He has now scored three centuries in as many Tests and five this year alone
- Ben Stokes was right not to make him wicketkeeper and mess with his form
- England will have their bad days, but let’s not forget how good a side India are
The saying ‘don’t mess with form’ is often heard in cricket dressing rooms and it means cashing in when you are in nick and remembering all those times when you just could not buy a run.
One thing for certain this summer is Jonny Bairstow is not messing with form.
Bairstow is hitting the ball as well as he has ever done. He has had periods in the past when he has scored big runs, but any good run of form has been interspersed with low scores, getting clean bowled and people questioning his place.
England’s Jonny Bairstow has now scored three hundreds in as many Test matches
He is hitting the ball better than he ever has done and epitomises the side’s new philosophy
Now he is going from innings to innings playing the same way and Bairstow epitomises what Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum are trying to do with this England team. What’s Bazball? It’s what Jonny Bairstow has been doing.
That’s three hundreds in successive Tests now, Bairstow adding a high-quality third in this re-arranged last Test against India, and I have not seen him play a single reckless shot in that time. There has not been one occasion when I’ve thought, ‘Don’t do that Jonny, you’re better than that’.
He has controlled his instincts, he has controlled his emotions and it did not prove wise of Virat Kohli to wind him up because – as we have seen so many times over the years – when Jonny is fiery or has a point to prove he’s very dangerous.
Sky did a really good Hawk-Eye graphic of Bairstow’s innings. When the ball was on a length Bairstow defended it and the moment it was a fraction too full he smashed it back over the bowler’s head. If it was short he pulled or upper cut the ball.
Bairstow has made the number five position his own in England’s ambitious new red ball era
As Stokes said before this Test, England could have given Bairstow the gloves here, with Ben Foakes being ruled out, but they didn’t want to mess with him with things going so well at five.
That’s probably the right thing to do, too, even though, as Jonny told Sportsmail in an interview here last week, he still loves keeping and would take the gloves back in an instant.
Bairstow says he is not thinking too much about his technique but he is covering his stumps a little more in Test cricket now and when Mohammed Shami tried to exploit what has sometimes been his weakness, being bowled by a nip backer that takes the top of off-stump, Bairstow looked much more compact and secure.
There will be comparisons with the way Bairstow is playing and the approach of Stokes but the difference is Jonny is a player and Ben is the captain. Stokes is trying to set the template for his team and send a message to them of how he wants them to play.
Yes, it is taking something away from Stokes the batter because he is one of the most intelligent batsmen I’ve seen in the last few years, going back to 2019 and the Headingley Test and World Cup final, because he thinks his way through situations.
The 32-year-old has admitted he would love to keep wicket again if he was asked to do so
Now he is in charge he does not want to ask a player to do something he’s not willing to do himself and at times this summer he has come down the pitch when he doesn’t need to. There will come a time when he has to adjust a bit.
As with Eoin Morgan’s white-ball side, there will be times when this England Test team will get it wrong. They are looking for the line. England cannot go from where they were to where they are trying to get to and win every game.
We have to remember England are playing a top-quality team in India. It’s very hard to bully this attack and India have shown when you go hard at them they come back harder, as Kohli was trying to do yesterday.
India went hard at Australia when they won there and in England last year. They are doing it again at Edgbaston but we are seeing another highly entertaining Test match. England and their man of the moment Bairstow are playing a full part in that.