27/02/2024

Jonny Bairstow's 35 was solid, but even he was willing to admit he can improve if England are to come back into this Ashes series. (Photo: Cricket Australia)

Jonny Bairstow may have been one of the lone hands in England's Boxing Day first innings, but he is willing to keep working for a big score.

The English cricket team were hoping for some luck heading into the make or break Boxing Day Test, but a spate of poor shot selection from senior players cruelled their first innings effort.

En route to a sub-par total of 185 all out, Jonny Bairstow held down the back end of the innings in his return to the Test team.

Batting at number six, Bairstow made 35, while up the other end senior members Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler played strange shots to lose their wickets.

Stokes fell to Cameron Green while trying to play an upper cut that only managed to fall into Nathan Lyon’s lap at backward point. In the final over before tea, Jos Buttler charged at Lyon and hit the ball straight down deep mid-wicket’s throat. Despite these mistakes, Bairstow defended their intentions.

“What we saw was individuals going out and playing the way that they foresee as the best way, and that’s what it’s about,” Bairstow said after play.

“Naturally the execution wasn’t there today, but the amount of times you’ve seen those shots executed and the ball goes for four is high – we’ll look back on them and reassess whether they should take a different option.”

It was a clear statement from the former keeper, who in particular backed Buttler’s “individual decision to take the off spinner down”, even when it was in the last over before the tea break when England was already precariously placed.

But that doesn’t mean Bairstow was ready to excuse his side, as he was quick to call for more grit in the face of Australia’s incessant bowling and fielding pressure.

“We’ve got to get a bit stronger and tougher with our dismissals, we know that, we’ve spoken about that and been honest with ourselves,” he said.

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“We need to keep doing that, we saw in that second innings in Adelaide we can bat for a period of time and put value on our wickets, when it comes to the second innings here we have to do that again.”

The day started off poorly for England, with openers Zak Crawley and Haseeb Hameed once again falling cheaply.

Having lost the toss and been sent in under overcast skies and on a green MCG pitch, the English camp thought yet another Dawid Malan and Joe Root partnership was going to dig them out of trouble.

Malan’s dismissal on the brink of lunch thwarted their plans.

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“When you look at the toss, it didn’t go our way when we would’ve looked to have bowled,” Bairstow said.

“In that early session the partnership between Dawid [Malan] and Joe [Root] was really good again – it hurt to lose Dawid on the stroke of lunch as it changes things if that doesn’t go down then.”

Bairstow may not have been in the side for the first two losses, and was by no means the player to blame in the Boxing Day effort (he contributed the second top score behind Root’s 50), but the batter is willing to admit he can improve his game. On a tough tour, Bairstow is confident hard work will pay off.

“Everyone’s trying different methods and individual training techniques,” he said.

“Why’s it so difficult? When you’ve got guys still bowling over 140 kilometres per hour it makes you make decisions a lot quicker, which is part and parcel with the game.

“They bowled well, but we’re also bowling on the same pitch they bowled on. We can come back and apply that same pressure in the morning and open it up at one end with the nightwatchman in.”

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