Ashes: Bairstow’s back where he belongs with SCG ton

Jonny Bairstow of England celebrates his century during day three of the Fourth Test match in the Ashes. (Photo: Izhar Khan)

It was a long wait for Jonny Bairstow, but it was all worth it when he reached his ninth Test ton in the final over of Jane McGrath Day at the SCG Test.

The English side looked perilously close to yet another batting collapse in this series, but Bairstow’s counterattacking innings, which brought up England’s first century of the series, gave the touring side a foothold into the contest.

Having not made a Test century since 2018, and having endured multiple years in and out of England’s red ball side, the number six batter ranked his latest Test century as his toughest.

“I’m absolutely over the moon – it was the hardest century so far due to the circumstances,” Bairstow said.

The moment – Bairstow cuts Cummins away for four to bring up his ninth test ton in trying conditions. (Photo: Izhar Khan)

“To be able to put the graft in and forge that partnership with Ben [Stokes] was a big one, it was tough out there and I’m delighted with the innings.”

Coming in at 4/36 after the lunch break to join Stokes, the pair took England from another shocking position to a stronger score, as Stokes’ departure for 66 ended a 128-run stand between the established pair.

The hallmark of the partnership was the quick rate with which both batters scored. The pair only batted for just under 30 overs, such was the nature of their attacking game and willingness to take on Australia’s vaunted bowling attack.

The clearest example came off Nathan Lyon, who was treated with disdain by both Stokes and Bairstow as he went for nearly six runs an hour throughout his 12 over spell.

Although many have been calling for England to show more attacking intent when at the crease, Bairstow felt like he “had to earn the right to show intent and be positive in everything”.

“You have to earn it and be positive in all areas, even with the way you leave the ball and then put the pressure back on – I think we ran between the wickets really well,” he said.

“In these situations you have to earn it and then execute when you have it, and today we did that well.”

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Bairstow’s blitzing innings looked to have hit a roadblock when he was injured while batting. Facing an SCG pitch that encouraged many deliveries to rear up off a good length, Bairstow was struck flush in the thumb and required plenty of painstaking medical attention on the field.

But when it came to retiring hurt, Bairstow admitted it “would take quite a bit to get [him] off the park”, and that he made sure it was his decision to stay out there, regardless of what the medical staff told him.

His hunt for a drought-breaking century came down to the final over of the day, where he faced the world’s number one ranked test bowler in Pat Cummins while on 99.

Facing “an annoying field” that he “hadn’t seen the like of before”, he was elated to break through with two balls to spare in the day’s play with a slashing cut shot over gully.

“They’ve got a very good bowling attack, it was one of those instances where I’m just delighted to reach three figures for England again,” he said.

“I’m very proud and it’s taken a lot of hard work to get to this point – I never thought that it wouldn’t come again, because with the hard work I’ve kept on putting in I felt like I had the ability to do it.”

Having helped his side get past their key obstacle for the day, which was to surpass the follow-on target of 216, Bairstow is keen to return to the crease tomorrow morning and get as close to Australia’s first innings total as possible.

But even the centurion admits it won’t be easy, as he’ll have to be switched on yet again if he is to make more runs against one of the world’s best bowling attacks.

“You have to credit their bowlers – they have a world class bowling attack,” Bairstow said.

“We would like more runs, but they do have a good attack bowling at a high pace, so it’s not going to be easy.”

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