Jonny Bairstow has fought tooth and nail to establish himself as a white-ball cricketer for England, but it’s his Test career that will leave a legacy.
After seemingly forever being around one-day squads with just the occasional appearances to show for his efforts, Bairstow is now forging a role as opener in the 50-over side. The early results have been impressive with 543 runs in 13 innings although he will be keen to covert a start having not had a fifty in five knocks, but making 37, 39 and 44 in that period.
His first innings of the series against New Zealand was scratchy following a short break back home, making 4 in Hamilton, but he looked in fine touch in Mount Maunganui before ramping Lockie Ferguson to third man.
However, at a time when Test cricket faces almost daily sermons about its health, and some players are opting out of first-class cricket to pursue the white ball, Bairstow was adamant that for all the success he can achieve in the one-day game – and there is a World Cup next year for which England are among the favourites – the five-day game will be what he is remembered for and hoped the format would get the care it needed.
“It’s the traditional game, it’s like taking fifteens rugby away and just playing sevens rugby. It’s something we’ve definitely got to cherish and play and I want to go on and play as many Tests as I can because you get remembered for how many Tests that you’ve played.”
Bairstow, who went unsold at the IPL auction, acknowledged the decisions made by Alex Hales and Adil Rashid won’t “have been taken lightly” and “you can’t force people into playing things” but said that it was another shot across the bows for Test cricket.
“Test cricket is huge, and if we’re not careful then there are going to be more and more people that do it [give up the red ball], because you’ve got lucrative tournaments around the world that people now can go off for five weeks and earn a heck of a lot of money for five weeks work when the strain and stress on the body of bowling fours overs comparatively to bowling 24 overs in a day in Test cricket. So whatever way it is we can preserve Test cricket and go forward with that is really important.”
Bairstow thought he would be involved throughout England’s five-month spell overseas before coach Trevor Bayliss put him on a plane back home to freshen up after the one-day series in Australia. It meant he had to forgo the opportunity of playing in the T20 side, the format he has yet to secure a regular spot in. As with this tour, the need to keep players fresh amid a demanding schedule is a key reason for that rather than his ability: in his three most-recent T20Is he has made 60 not out, 47 and 27.
“I kept for a thousand overs in the Ashes, 6,000 balls before we even practiced,” he said. “You have to be managed, in some ways it’s not feasible to play every game and train every day, batting for hours in the nets. Otherwise you get complete burnout of the squad in two years because of the amount we play.
“Trev knows his players and he made the right call to say we needed a couple of weeks back home, recharge the batteries, see the families and come back fresh.”