Jonny Bairstow has admitted he was extremely disappointed to have been overlooked for the wicketkeeping duties for England’s ODI series against Ireland, but still believes a starting berth in England’s Champions Trophy squad is within his grasp, after another remarkable statement of intent at Lord’s.
Bairstow’s 72 not out from 44 balls was the decisive factor in England’s 85-run victory in the second ODI, as he catapulted his team from a mid-range total to an unobtainable final score of 328 for 6. With his Yorkshire team-mate, Adil Rashid alongside him, he helped England add 115 runs in the final 12 overs of the innings, including 26 runs from the final seven balls that he faced.
For Bairstow, it was a continuation of a sensational run of form in all formats for England, one that began with his maiden Test century against South Africa at Cape Town in January 2016 and has included a tally of 1470 runs at 58.80 in the 2016 calendar year, a record for a Test wicketkeeper.
In white-ball cricket, his chances have been significantly more limited in recent times, given the strength of England’s one-day batting line-up. Nevertheless, he marked his first ODI for 14 months with a matchwinning half-century against India in Kolkata in January and, having scorched Durham in the Royal London Cup last week with a career-best 174 from 113 balls, he carried that form straight into today’s death-overs onslaught.
“I’m pleased with the way I’m striking the ball, I’m pleased with the way I’m moving at the crease, and obviously you’ve got the by-product of that, which is the runs that you score,” said Bairstow. “So yeah, I’m pleased, and if I make contributions in whatever game I’m playing, I’m happy.”
All the same, there is a tangible sense of frustration bubbling just under the surface for Bairstow, who probably would not have played in this contest had Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes not been preoccupied with the IPL. He and Sam Billings were the beneficiaries of their absence, but the sense that Billings has nudged ahead of Bairstow in the white-ball pecking order was reinforced when he was handed the wicketkeeping gloves in Buttler’s absence.
“I was just told, ‘Sam’s keeping’,” said Bairstow. “It was desperately disappointing, but it is what it is. When selection is made, whether at Yorkshire, the academy, the first team, the second team, it’s all about how you look forward. It’s like when I was left out of the Test team two years ago, you either go back to Yorkshire and hide, or you stand up work on your game and take it forward.”
Bairstow’s wicketkeeping in Test cricket has faced some criticism in recent months, but the returns have been hard to dispute – a record haul of 70 dismissals in 2016, almost double the tally of his nearest challenger, Pakistan’s Sarfraz Ahmed. For that reason, he’s still hopeful that he will be considered the first-choice stand-in if Buttler is injured in the lead-up to the Champions Trophy.
“I would like to hope so,” he said. “It’s something I’ve worked really hard on over a period of time. When I’ve kept in ODIs previously, I like to think I’ve kept pretty well, but as I say, for me personally, I’m not thinking about it too much. As long as I’m keeping up with my practice, keeping or batting, if the opportunity arises it’s a case of taking it and carrying on what I’m doing with Yorkshire.”
Either way, if Bairstow is feeling at all insecure about his value to the England team, he is channelling his frustrations well.
“I just try and go out as if you are playing in any old game, because as soon as you try to do something that isn’t in your repertoire, that’s when you tend come unstuck,” he said. “You just try to stay as calm as possible, because you could be in after 10 overs or 40 overs, so the situations are always changing and you can’t be too het up about it and which shots might be on. It’s about sifting the information coming back from the guys out in the middle.”
Thanks to Bairstow’s intervention, and another disciplined bowling performance, England duly wrapped up a 2-0 series win against Ireland to make it five wins on the bounce since a hard-fought loss in the ODI leg of their India tour in January.
“It’s a fantastic place for us as a side going into the Champions Trophy,” said Bairstow. “These two games have been a good stepping stone for us, because previously, especially at the start of the summer, we’ve not necessarily started so well. For us to step on our game from the start was something to focus on leading into the South Africa series and the Champions Trophy.”
For Ireland, who salvaged some pride but not the series with an improved performance in the second ODI, there was a sense of envy and incredulity that a player of Bairstow’s calibre could be anything other than a first-choice name.
“I’d love to have their headaches!” said Ireland’s captain, Will Porterfield. “You’re looking at someone of his quality – and Stokes, Woakes, Buttler that are going to come into your first XI.
“It just shows the strength of English cricket. He’s been banging down the door, probably as consistent as anyone over the last 18 months, getting big runs across the formats. I’m sure, given the opportunity, he’ll do very well.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
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