Jonny Bairstow insists his game is in 'the best place it's been'

Jonny Bairstow insists his game is in ‘the best place it’s been’ and claims he would ‘relish the opportunity’ to bat No 3 for England against Sri Lanka next week after making his most recent Test century in that position

  • Jonny Bairstow batted No 3 when he scored a hundred in Colombo in 2018 
  • Rory Burns going on paternity leave has caused a rejig in the England order 
  • Bairstow wants to show he can make it as a specialist batsman against Sri Lanka 
  • Joe Root and his side are set to compete in no fewer than 17 Tests in 2021 

Jonny Bairstow has insisted he is in the form of his life as he prepares to resurrect a Test career that has been on hold for over a year.

He is likely to bat at No 3 in next week’s series opener in Sri Lanka, inevitably evoking memories of the fiery hundred he made from that position in Colombo in November 2018 – the most recent of his six Test centuries.

That innings felt very Bairstow, with a point to prove after losing the gloves to Ben Foakes. Now, with Rory Burns’s paternity leave necessitating another rejig of England’s top order – but with Jos Buttler established behind the stumps – Bairstow has a different agenda: at the age of 31, he intends to show he can cut it as a specialist batsman.

Jonny Bairstow has insisted he is in the form of his life as he prepares to resurrect a Test career

He is likely to play as a specialist batsman with Rory Burns (left) going on paternity leave, because Jos Buttler (right) will be behind the stumps

Team Root: Crawley / Bracey / Root / Lawrence / Foakes / Overton / Robinson / Leach / Wood / Anderson / Parkinson

Team Buttler: Sibley / Pope / Bairstow / Buttler / Curran / Bess / Stone / Broad / Mahmood / Crane / Virdi

‘It’s 70 Tests I’ve played now,’ he said ahead of England’s two-day intra-squad match in Hambantota. ‘People keep saying: ‘Points to prove, this, that and the other.’ To be honest with you, I think that I’ve answered a lot of questions in the past. This is now a time for me to enjoy going into a Test series and relish the opportunity.

‘Last time I played in Sri Lanka, I got a hundred batting at three. I’ve batted a few times there, and generally done alright. If that is the case, then bring it on.’

In fact, only six of Bairstow’s 123 Test innings have been at first drop, bringing him the Colombo century, plus 52 soon after in Antigua. And there will also be the pressure of playing his first Test since December 2019 in South Africa – a year in which he totalled just 334 Test runs at 18.

But while Bairstow can be prickly about the ‘point to prove’ tag, there is little doubt he thrives on a challenge. The most recent example came in November, when he responded to being moved down to No 4 in the T20 side with a format-best 86 not out off 48 balls.

Bairstow is likely to bat No 3, as he did when he made a fiery hundred in Colombo in November 2018, his most recent Test century

‘I genuinely think my game’s in the best place it’s been,’ he said. ‘The work I’ve put into my game, and the runs I’ve got left in the tank over the next three, four, five, however many years it may be, means I believe I can be a huge contributor to English cricket in the Test arena. I’ve proved it in the past.’

With the touring side expecting their latest set of Covid-19 test results earlier on Thursday, Bairstow also warned about the toll of bubble life in a year when England are set to play 17 Tests – one short of India’s world record for a calendar year in 1983.

‘If you are looking at 17 Tests within the year, straight away you are looking at 17 weeks of the year just for the preparation and the games. Even before you look at any lead times, you are looking at potentially four or five months straightaway.

‘That will be tricky for people to manage at times, but there is also support in place to help people get through.’

Joe Root’s men are set to play 17 Tests this year, one short of India’s world record in 1983

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