Jonny Bairstow is embracing the challenge of breaking back into England’s Test team and is looking at the man who has replaced him as the side’s number one wicketkeeper for inspiration.
Bairstow was central to England lifting the World Cup this summer but his form tailed off in the Ashes, where he averaged just 23.77 across the drawn series as his diminishing returns with the bat in Test whites continued.
While the Yorkshireman is set to feature in the five-match Twenty20 series against New Zealand that starts Chris Silverwood’s reign as England head coach, he is a notable absentee from the squad for the Test series that follows.
Jos Buttler inherits the gloves 18 months on from regaining his Test spot after starring in the Indian Premier League but the failed Jason Roy experiment means England may move away from selecting talent for the longest format based on their limited-overs exploits.
Nevertheless, Bairstow knows the hard currency of runs is difficult to ignore and could prove a determining factor for the trip to South Africa shortly after England have concluded their duties in New Zealand.
Speaking at the draft for the inaugural edition of The Hundred, Bairstow said: “If you’re scoring runs, no matter the format, I think it definitely influences certain things.
“Obviously we saw Jason in the summer getting picked off the ODIs, a couple of years ago we saw Jos coming back into the Test arena after impressing in the IPL.
“In previous years that’s what’s happened – but in no way am I saying that’s going to happen.
“I want to be playing and representing England in all formats. That’s the nature of me, that’s who I am – I want to work hard in the time that I’ve got and hopefully impress enough to be in contention come South Africa.”
Bairstow averages 37.85 in the 48 Tests he has been behind the stumps, which shrinks to 29.17 in the 21 he has featured as a batsman only.
But when asked what role he is eyeing going forward, he responded: “I don’t mind. I just want to return to the squad to try and get back in the side.
“Wherever that may be hopefully there’s an opportunity that arises and hopefully I’ll be able to take that when it does.”
Key for the 30-year-old will be working on his batting technique – which has been scrutinised because of his propensity to be bowled by balls coming back into him – away from the microscope of international cricket.
Bairstow added: “I’ve got an opportunity to go away and just work on a few things which, with the scheduling and playing all three formats over the last four or five years, has been pretty tough to do.
“I think the last time I did that was probably 2015 when I got the chance to go away and work on a few things. To refresh and refocus I think is an important thing to be able to do.
“I’m excited about being able to have a little period of time to be able to go away and work on my own things and not necessarily think about it being watched on telly or have it being stripped down to say he’s doing this or that.
“Because as we all know it’s quite easy to stop recordings in certain frames in order to say it’s X, Y or Z. I know what I need to do and I’m excited about what I need to work on.”
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Just two wickets remain for India to complete an emphatic 3-0 series clean sweep over South Africa with the visitors completely crumbling with the bat on Day Three of the final Test in Ranchi.
Having started the day’s proceedings at 9-2 in reply to India’s commanding first innings total of 497, it only got worse for the Proteas who lost as many as 16 wickets over the course of the three sessions.
They were bundled out for just 162 runs in their first innings with India skipper Virat Kohli having no hesitation in enforcing the follow-on. It didn’t get any better for South Africa in their second go with the bat and they were reeling at 132-8 before stumps were drawn on Day Three.
It was a day which clearly belonged to India’s formidable bowling unit with their relentless display being one of the key talking points.
Pace is South Africa’s undoing once again
South Africa’s inexperienced line-up might have expected a baptism by spin in India but it has been anything but, with pacers running riot for the third Test in a row.
Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami had given the hosts a flying start with the ball on Day Two with the early dismissals of the Proteas openers, and they were at the batsmen’s throats once again on Monday with a fiery display of fast bowling.
Attacking the stumps with lethal accuracy, the two India pacers had South Africa’s batsmen in all sorts of trouble with their aggression and intensity fetching them due rewards. Both pacers claimed five wickets apiece across the two South Africa innings with India’s spinners relegated to a supporting role.
With 13 dismissals, Shami is now just two wickets behind Ravichandran Ashwin in the wicket-taking charts for the series with his average standing at a stellar 14.76. Yadav, meanwhile, has been even more impressive with 11 wickets in his two Test appearances at an outstanding average of 12.18.
The best of South Africa’s pacers – Kagiso Rabada – has averaged just 40.71 in the series.
Seniors disappoint for South Africa
After two chastening defeats in Vizag and Pune, South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis and Dean Elgar had emphasised the need for the team’s senior players to raise their hands up in the third Test. That didn’t come to fruition with their more experienced stalwarts failing to fire in Ranchi.
While Elgar would contribute just 16 runs in total after being forced to retire injured in the second innings, Du Plessis himself was equally poor with a match aggregate of only five runs.
Wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock, too, failed to get going with nine runs coming from his two innings while Temba Bavuma was marginally better with a 32-run contribution in the match.
South Africa can lament their inexperience for what has been a miserable tour of India but the continuous failure of their senior players to stand up to the test is what has cost them most dearly.
Test rookies show the way for visitors
While the senior South African stars were abject in their surrender, there was some fight shown at least by the rookies in the squad.
Making only his second Test appearance, top-order batsman Zubayr Hamza showed he has a bright future with a gritty knock of 62 the first inning. The 24-year-old was dismissed for a duck by Shami in the second innings but it was a near unplayable delivery that got his number.
Meanwhile, debutant George Linde backed up his impressive bowling show with two fighting knocks with the bat on Day Three.
The South Africa spinner ultimately ended up as the most prolific batsman for the visitors in Ranchi with his two innings aggregating 64 runs in total. The application he showed at the crease in the face of fire, along with Hamza, was a lesson to the senior players who seemed mentally defeated after their failures.
India are well in control of the third and final Test against South Africa, with Umesh Yadav strking early on day three by dismissing Proteas skipper Faf Du Plessis in just the sixth over.
A beauty from Yadav as it takes the top of the off stump of Du Plessis. The Proteas leader is out first-ball, the ball just moving away after pitching and that does the job for India.
It is yet more woe for the tourists after India posted a mammoth 497 in the first innings. They dealt early blows to South Africa’s reply, removing openers Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock in the first two overs. South Africa once again find themselves looking up at a massive first innings total while having lost early wickets.
Zubayr Hamza, playing his first match of the series, is now in at bat along with Temba Bavuma. For India, Mohammed Shami and Yadav will look to get more gains with the new ball.
Their blistering start towards the end of day two was cut short due to bad light but the early wickets would encourage them to go out and cause more damage.
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