‘You know me Nass, that fire is always in my belly!’ Jonny Bairstow speaks to Nasser Hussain

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He has been at the forefront of the transformation in England’s Test cricket with two of the greatest centuries of modern times against New Zealand.

Now, on the eve of England’s ‘final’ Test against India, Jonny Bairstow sat down at Edgbaston to talk with SPORTSMAIL’s Nasser Hussain about Bazball, proving people wrong — and being made tea by the legendary Mary Berry…

Nasser Hussain: You’ve done a lot in your career, Jonny. The World Cup win and so many other highs. Where does the last month rate?

Jonny Bairstow: Yes, there have been some amazing times but I think the way we are going about our cricket is really exciting. I really do hope it’s grabbing people’s attention. That’s exactly what we want to be doing.

We were inspired to play cricket as kids and we want to inspire the next generation to come and watch the game and play it.

Jonny Bairstow hit stunning centuries in the second and third Tests against New Zealand

Bairstow sealed the win over New Zealand in the third Test in style - by hitting a huge six into the stands at Headingley

Bairstow sealed the win over New Zealand in the third Test in style – by hitting a huge six into the stands at Headingley

Hussain: You must be thrilled at the way you’re hitting them?

Bairstow: Yes I’m really pleased. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster but since coming in for the third Test of the Ashes at the MCG up until now, it’s been great fun.

It’s not like I’ve come back and gone, ‘Right, this is what I need to change’. I’m just trying to take the complexities out of batting and keeping it as simple as possible.

You know as well as anyone, Nass, this is a simple game that is complicated by those of us who play it. I’m trying to remain as clear as possible and have no doubts about my ability or the way I’m going about my batting.

The way we’re playing now, there will be times when it doesn’t come off — but if we stick at this for long enough we will win a lot of games of cricket.

Hussain: I guess Bazball is a perfect fit for you if it means going out to play positive but not reckless cricket. There’s not been one minute over these last three Tests when I thought you were being reckless in your hitting…

Bairstow said the brand of cricket England are playing at the moment is 'really exciting'

Bairstow said the brand of cricket England are playing at the moment is ‘really exciting’

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Bairstow: It’s just looking to be busy and shifting the momentum back on to the bowler. Like you say, I haven’t gone out looking to just slog or anything. I like to think it’s been calculated.

Hussain: It’s been very calculated. Which hundred gave you more pleasure? That hour after tea at Trent Bridge was just ‘Wow’. But then Headingley must have been incredibly special to you for so many different reasons.

Bairstow: They were two very different innings. What were we when I went in at Headingley, 20 for three? (17 for three). Compared to chasing down a target at Trent Bridge when we needed 160-odd in the last session. But they were both very enjoyable.

There have been a few times I’ve scored runs when we’ve been a few wickets down and that gives you a lot of pleasure, to dig in and scrap for your team. That’s what Test cricket is all about. To find that inner dog to get you through those tough periods. But we needed those runs in the last session at Trent Bridge and it was, ‘Right, let’s go and win this game’.

The Yorkshireman also praised the captaincy of Ben Stokes, who succeeded Joe Root in the tough job

The Yorkshireman also praised the captaincy of Ben Stokes, who succeeded Joe Root in the tough job

Hussain: It was you and Ben at Trent Bridge. Just like it’s been on a few occasions…

Bairstow: We’ve done it for quite a few years, haven’t we? There actually wasn’t that much said between us in the middle. We trust each other’s games now to just go and play, which is a really good thing to have. You don’t need to be saying things all the time.

Hussain: What’s Ben like as a captain? He looked thrilled for you when you went to a hundred at Headingley.

Bairstow: He’s been really good. Tactically very good on the field and off it he’s been clear what he wants from the guys. He hadn’t done an awful lot of captaincy before taking over but he’s had a lot of experiences, both on and off the field, that he’s been able to bring together in order to lead this side.

Bairstow was a key member of the England team that won the 2019 World Cup in dramatic fashion

Bairstow was a key member of the England team that won the 2019 World Cup in dramatic fashion

The relationship that he and Brendon have already got can only grow over time. We should remember this is just in its infancy. It’s been a fantastic few weeks but we have to keep building and learning as a group. It can only get better.

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Hussain: You showed your class, Jonny, after Trent Bridge when you came down to speak to us at Sky and told us not to forget the previous regime and what they went through. It’s really easy to be caught up in the ‘Wow’ of the moment.

Bairstow: Like I said to you then, it would be remiss of people to forget about the success Joe Root and Chris Silverwood had.

We all lived through that time when both formats wanted their best team and Joe was often without his best side.

The England star said it would be remiss of people to forget about the success under Root

The England star said it would be remiss of people to forget about the success under Root

I think I’m right in saying, in terms of victories, Joe is the most successful England captain ever? And to keep his humility when he went through such hard times during Covid was a huge credit to him and Chris.

Hussain: It’s incredible to think now that there were still some people questioning your place before this series. I know you have tried to shut out the noise but you’ve also been at your best when you’ve had a point to prove.

Have you still got that fire in your belly to prove people wrong?

Bairstow: I don’t know what people were saying but I had scored a couple of hundreds over the winter. So, it’s up to them.

You know my character, Nass, that fire is always in my belly. My appetite to play Test cricket for England will never cease and the passion, the will and the want are most definitely there.

You know how much it means to me and I’m extremely proud of doing that. All I can say is that it’s nice to have the backing of everybody.

Bairstow (left) is thriving under new coach Brendon McCullum and his 'Baz-ball' style of play

Bairstow (left) is thriving under new coach Brendon McCullum and his ‘Baz-ball’ style of play

Hussain: I also know how much wicketkeeping has meant to you. Is it something you’d like to do again or are you very comfortable at five now and that’s it?

Bairstow: If the opportunity arises again, I’d love to do it. I kept for a couple of sessions at Headingley and it was good fun.

I look back to when I lost the gloves in 2019 and apparently it was because of my batting but, look, I’ve put a lot of hard work into keeping over the years and if comes again that’s great.

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If it doesn’t I’m happy and will continue to try to score as many runs as possible.

Hussain: Are you a stats man? Do you want to push your average up to 40? Do you want to play 100 Tests? You’re on 86 now.

Bairstow: You can look at it in different ways. If I was stats-driven I wouldn’t have got out 25 times while batting with numbers 10 and 11. There are ways to contribute to winning games of Test cricket that might not be the best for your average.

Bairstow is hoping to continue his fine run of form during the re-arranged fifth Test against India

Bairstow is hoping to continue his fine run of form during the re-arranged fifth Test against India

Numbers are great but if you’re contributing to winning games, that’s the most important thing. But of course I’d like to average 40 by the end of my career, that would be great.

I don’t want to look too far ahead but it’s your ambition as a kid to play 100 Tests for England and if I got there it would mean a heck of a lot. That would be very special.

Hussain: You’ve got a one-off Test against India now. Six months ago it would be unfinished business but this seems more about England and what you are doing now rather than India.

Bairstow: It’s carrying on that journey. We will concentrate on us and try to put our best foot forward to win another game of cricket. Playing against India is always a fantastic challenge and it should be great fun.

Hussain: And where does Mary Berry fit into Bazball? (Jonny filmed a TV show with the former Great British Bake Off star at Edgbaston on Tuesday.)

Bairstow: (laughing) What an absolute legend of a person she is! We had such a nice afternoon and then she did us this tea with smoked salmon, wild rice and asparagus. It was lovely.

Hussain: You do remember you’re a Yorkie, don’t you?

Bairstow: I know! Who would have thought it? I should be eating sausage and mash!

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