In 2017 I wrote an article about my favourite World cricketers, I’d seen 9 teams that year and picked at least 1 player from each country. I picked 4 for England, being Alastair Cook, Jimmy Anderson, Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow. One of those players has since retired from international cricket, another may be doing so very soon. It turned out that the player stepping away from Test Cricket would be Moeen Ali as I now update this article in the midst of an Ashes series in Australia that isn’t going too well for England. The calls to reinstate Jonny Bairstow are coming thick and fast. The original article was written during the 2019 Ashes series in England; I’m going to add soem Bairstow facts from that point onwards.
Moeen and Bairstow have been the focus of a lot of angst when it comes to the red ball game. I was going to write something about Jonny B before the Edgbaston test but didn’t quite get it done. After a less than impressive match in Birmingham I definitely feel the need. First, here’s an extract from that 2017 article –
Jonny Bairstow – his wicketkeeping has improved beyond recognition, he’s made 119 catches and 7 stumpings. I’m picking him for his batting he has 2,824 test runs from 77 innings with a highest score of 167* and including 3 centuries and 17 50’s. In total he’s scored 10,018 First Class runs and taken 390 catches with a highest score of 246, in common with my next choice he’s saved England’s bacon several times. Another thing I’ve loved about Jonny is the way he’s smiled through being Englands’ 12th man in ODI matches so often then slipped back in to bail them out! And lo and behold the day after this was written Jonny opened the batting against the West Indies and scored his first 100! I couldn’t be happier for him!
Something seems to have gone wrong for Bairstow when it comes to test cricket; he suffered an injury when he was playing against India at Trent Bridge last summer, fracturing the middle finger of his left hand. England had the choice of 2 keepers during that match in Joss’s Buttler and Ollie Pope. It was the senior man, Buttler who took the gloves. Amazingly Bairstow came out to bat and was bowled by Bumrah for a Golden Duck to add to the 15 he’d scored in a fairly poor first innings by England who were bowled out for 161.
I went to every India test last summer and felt uneasy when Bairstow was included in the team for the 4th Test at the Rose Bowl, Buttler again took the gloves and Bairstow batted at 4, he scored 6 in the first innings and, another Golden Duck in the second, this time he was bowled by Shami. There was a lot of noise in the media about Jonny being in a ‘mood’ about not having the keeping gloves. From my viewpoint near him on the boundary he looked at ease and scored autographs galore. He is it turned out, probably England’s best man in the outfield, very speedy and capable.
The 5th and Final Test was at The Oval, Bairstow had the gloves back and was batting at 5. He was out for a 4th ball Duck in the first innings, caught by Pant from the bowling of Sharma, he made 18 in the second and was bowled by Shami.
That was a grand total of 39 runs at an average of 6.5 in those 3 matches. In the test first test at Edgbaston Bairstow scored 70 and 28, he was involved in running out Joe Root on 80 and was clearly upset at the time, but. with those runs added to the 93 he scored at Lord’s, his pre-injury scores were so much better. An average of 63.67.
England traveled to Sri Lanka for the first leg of their Winter tour, they went about their standard routine of warming up with football before one of their ODI’s, Bairstow went down with an injury, twisting his ankle, an injury that would keep him out of the team until the 3rd Test in late November.
That brought Surrey keeper Ben Foakes into the team, his test career started with a bang, he scored 107 in his first innings at Galle, followed by 37. he took 2 catches and carried out a stumping, all of which added up to him receiving the Man of the Match award.
Moving on to Kandy and still no Bairstow, Foakes scored 19 in the first innings and 65 in the second, taking 3 catches across the 2 Sri Lankan innings and another stumping.
Colombo saw Jonny back as a specialist batsman, batting at 3 he was at the crease for over 3 hours, scoring 110, in the second he scored 15, but the century was enough to see him receive the Man on the Match award. Foakes scored 13 and 36 and took 3 catches in Sri Lanka’s first innings.
On to the West Indies and Foakes kept the gloves for the first 2 tests; albeit injuring his hand in the second while batting, that saw Bairstow taking the gloves. Bairstow again batted at 3 in those 2 tests, averaging 27 and top scoring with 52 during the second, he then went on to keep. Foakes was dropped in favour of Keaton Jennings for the third test. Bairstow only batted in the first innings, at 6, he scored 2. Taking that average for the 3 games down a notch to 22.
Looking at the Yorkshire stats for 2019 Bairstow doesn’t feature at all, he did have a World Cup to prepare for, and in that competition he scored 532 runs at an average of 48.38. But after that 3rd test at Gros Islet in early February he hadn’t faced a red ball in anger until his pair of Ducks at Lord’s against Ireland.
Bairstow wasn’t alone in underperforming against Ireland, but there was something very strange about his first dismissal in particular, bowled by Tim Murtagh, his 15 minutes on the pitch were full of drama.
England’s loss at Edgbaston in the first Ashes test is still fresh in everyone’s mind, but a reminder that, batting at 6 Bairstow scored 8 then 6. Again not the only one to underperform but for me his innings were a sign of something amiss.
I’m clearly not an England selector, but I’d be bringing Ben Foakes back into the fold, he’s the best keeper in the country. Bairstow is clearly capable of being included as a specialist bat, but for some reason his head just isn’t in the right place. There’s a single county game starting on August 18th, I’d have him playing for his County to help him find his mojo again.
I very much doubt this is going to happen this is an incredibly compact series with 4 matches to fit in by Mid September
- 14th August – Lord’s
- 22nd August – Headingley
- 4th September – Old Trafford
- 12th September – The Oval
I really hope either way Jonny Bairstow finds his way again, but I really want to see the best keeper behind those sticks, and that, is Ben Foakes. Lord’s is often an unhappy hunting ground for England, here’s hoping they fare better in the second Ashes test!
And so to now update from the Ashes 2019 onwards –
|Australia||Lord’s||2019||7||52 & 30*||D|
|Australia||Headingely||2019||6||4 & 36||W|
|Australia||Old Trafford||2019||7 & 6||17 & 25||L|
|Australia||The Oval||2019||5||22 & 14||W|
|South Africa||Centurion||2019||6||1 & 9||L|
|South Africa 2-4||Various||2020|
|West Indies 1-3||Southampton|
|Sri Lanka||Galle||2021||3||47 & 35||W|
|Sri Lanka||Galle||2021||3||28 & 29||W|
|India 1 & 2||Chennai||2021|
|India||Ahmedabad||2021||3||0 & 0||L|
|India||Ahmedabad||2021||3||28 & 0||L|
|India||Trent Bridge||2021||5||29 & 30||D|
|India||Lords||2021||5||57 & 1||L|
|India||The Oval||2021||6||37 & 0||L|
The table shows just how much test cricket England have played since 2019, we’ve had Covid times and a T20 World Cup, a format that Jonny Bairstow most certainly shines in. It’s also clear that Bairstow, amongst others has been messed about, being in and out of the team and up and down the order like a yo-yo.
This 2021 Ashes series with a day to go of the second test feels nothing short of a disaster, it seems to me that England need to take a long hard look at their test set up, and that doesn’t included parachuting one Jonny Bairstow in and out on a whim. In 2020 he played 3 innings for his county Yorkshire, averaging 34, in 2019 and 2021 Yorkshire fans didn’t see him bat for their county at all. He won’t have been the only player involved in the England set up to have played so little County Cricket. A quick look at Jos Buttler for Lancashire and he played 2 innings in 2018 and hasn’t played County Cricket since. Joe Root has played 17 innings in the same 4 years. I suspect if I looked back at the likes of Ian Botham and Freddie Flintoff I’d find a lot more County Cricket in their lockers. That test set up review must include a good look at the CC situation, whether the dearth of playing opportunities is down to central contracts or white ball cricket I don’t know.
As an Essex member and fan, I do know that Sir Alastair Cook is and has been a different man when playing with his friends at his county, it’s been like looking at 2 different men. England will have played 12 test matches in 2021 with a couple abandoned due to Covid; could that be a factor in this series? Historically England have always played more than others, looking at the Teams playing in the Ashes, since 1877 England have played 1042 and Australia 836. England have a 36% win percentage and Australia 47% – only one team is seeing that percentage rise in this series!