Cricket / bairstow
Hell Hath No Fury Like a Yorkshireman Scorned!
Yorkshire! Gods own country they say! Home of the white rose and Wensleydale cheese, a land where lunch is called dinner and dinner is called tea and a people who consider any weather above 12C to be barmy. "Strong Yorkshire, strong England" is the logic often applied to cricket in these parts and yes, throughout the years Yorkshire have produced more talent than any other county in the country. England captain Joe Root is a Yorkie as is leg-spinner Adil Rashid and until recently the 3rd member of England's squad to hail from those parts was Jonny Bairstow, England's wicketkeeper-batsman. However, while over the last couple of years Bairstow has cemented his place as one England's first picks for the starting 11 in all formats of the game, the last couple of months have seen something of a downturn in is fortunes and his performances. It began in the 3rd Test of the summer against India which from an England perspective was one best forgotten by the whole team. For Bairstow however, it was doubly bad as he broke a finger fielding a regulation delivery behind the stumps. He came out to bat in the 2nd innings with England looking to save the game and was promptly bowled neck and crop 1st ball. Rumours were that the injury would lead to him missing the 4th Test of the series but as it transpired he did play in that game albeit as a specialist batsman with Jos Buttler taking over the gloves. Bairstow took a ball to the end of his finger causing it to fracture source Now from my perspective, I was quite happy about the whole situation, not because I wished Bairstow any ill will - as a Southerner, I can let the animosity between us and the North slide, at least while the nation's cricketing success is at stake - but because I had been arguing for this change to be made since the beginning of the summer. I have always felt that Bairstow has the ability to be a specialist batsman for England but that he will only be able to reach his true potential with the bat if he gives up wearing the gloves. Unfortunately, it seems that young Jonny is not in agreement with me! Rumours are that he was a little bit peeved at the selectors' decision to hand over the gloves to Buttler despite the fact that he was nursing an injury that would have made it very difficult for him to carry out the role effectively. His performances thereafter dropped off considerably as he returned scores of 6, 0, 0 and 37 in the remainder of the series with many of his dismissals coming to shots that suggested he just wasn't willing to fight for his wicket. In my opinion, Bairstow was sulking! Up in Yorkshire, they would describe him as a mardy bum! If that phrase sounds familiar it's because there is an Arctic Monkeys song of the same name, please enjoy it while reading the rest of the blog! On England's current tour of Sri Lanka, things didn't get much better for Bairstow as he injured his ankle playing football during a training session. No that's not a typo! England's cricketers enjoy having a kick about while preparing for a cricket game. Don't ask me why? The risks of injury as proved by Bairstow, as well as several other incidents throughout the years, seem to outweigh the benefits and to be quite frank the players are there to do their job of playing cricket. If I wander into work on Monday morning and announce to my boss that I fancy being an accountant today she's going to tell me that's fine, go find another position, you're paid to do what you signed up for! The footballing injury left Bairstow unavailable for the 1st Test of the winter tours and once more opened the door for another player to stake their claim as England's wicket-keeper batsman and the rest, as they say, is history with Ben Foakes striking a century on his debut and generally looking the part behind the stumps. Here's Jonny! Bairstow has cut an increasingly frustrated figure over the past couple of weeks as Foakes performances and the selectors' decision to stick with a winning team have relegated him to the role of waterboy. However, fate seems to finally be swinging back in Bairstow's favour with the injury sustained to Sam Curran and the fact that almost everyone else in the team has had an unsuccessful go at number 3, meaning it's now Jonny's turn to have a go! Bairstow's innings of 110 yesterday was him at his best! Full of positive and attacking intent, he was quick to seize on any width given to him by the bowlers and while many of England's batsmen this series have favoured the sweep shot as a pressure release against the spinners it was Bairstow's business at the crease and his ability to knock the ball into gaps on either side of the wicket that allowed him to take control of the situation. For over 4 hours Bairstow alongside Root and then Stokes had put England into complete control of the game and really should have seen them finish their 1st innings with a score in excess of 400, a position from which you would have thought that victory and a series whitewash were assured. However, on a personal level you could see what the hundred meant to Bairstow, he has stated that he felt "castigated" when he was left out of the side for the 2nd Test. His celebrations upon reaching the landmark suggest that hell hath no fury like a Yorkshireman scorned. Bairstow's innings and his partnerships with Root and Stokes should have put England out of sight in this match but regular wickets thereafter mean this could be a closely fought match source Is number 3 the right position for Bairstow? Bairstow's success at number 3 yesterday has, at least in the short to medium term, ended the debate around who will bat there for England but is this the long term solution that England have been struggling to find ever since the retirement of Johnathan Trott? I'm not so convinced! Scoring a century in conditions where the new ball is almost irrelevant and against a mediocre side like Sri Lanka who have already been beaten in this series is one thing. Coming out to bat at 3 against Mitchell Starc and co. next summer, at the fall of an early wicket with the ball swinging around corners is going to be an entirely different prospect altogether. I've always felt that without the gloves, Bairstow would make a capable number 5 for England but he has neither the technique or temperament to play at 3 against the world's very best. The above graphic demonstrates perfectly how Bairstow's greatest strength will ultimately become his biggest weakness if left to bat at number 3. Yesterday he was able to stay leg-side of the ball and hit anything from a 4th stump line or wider through the cover and point regions. Of course, this was against a side playing with only 1 seam bowler who wasn't able to find any lateral movement off the pitch or through the air. We've seen already this summer that when Bairstow stays leg side of the ball which is his preferred technique that he is very suspectible to being bowled by a delivery that jags back into him. He has out bowled 4 times against India this summer doing just that! Then, of course, you have the potential issue of bowlers being able to threaten his outside edge as well. Yesterday he was able to hit almost everything wide of off-stump for runs but in swinging conditions playing such shots come at a much higher risk. Does he have the patience to make the bowlers adjust their line and bowl to him or is he going to keep driving at everything that is out there? When it's your day you crunch them all through cover-point and when it isn't you knick them straight to 2nd slip. Does Bairstow, a man who has generally batted 5 and below for club and country have the cricketing intelligence to realise this and adjust accordingly? Who is going to take the gloves? Ben Foakes is the best wicket-keeper in England, fact! Sorry Jonny, we all know that you've worked very hard on your keeping skills to the point that no one doubts your ability to do the job, however, Ben Foakes is just better at it than you are and if you believe some of the laudatory things being said about him, he is currently better than anyone else on the planet at that particular role. Of course, England still have a lot of thinking to do about the balance and make-up of their team. If, as I suggest above, Bairstow isn't the man to bat at 3 but he is a player that England want to keep in their team then that creates intense pressure for Ben Foakes, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler who come the summer of 2019 may well find themselves competing for 2 spots in the side. This kind of competition in the squad is great news! I have been suggesting for some time that a few of the more established players (including Bairstow) have been trading off former glories and doing just enough to keep themselves in the team. With the emergence of Foakes alongside Sam Curran, England finally have some youngsters pushing the senior men to justify keeping their places at the top of the pile. When i saw this picture I couldn't help but think what the conversation would be :-) It seems unlikely that Bairstow will get the gloves back this winter as you'd have thought that England will give Ben Foakes an extended run in the side that includes the 3 Tests to come in the West Indies. What Bairstow must not do is fall into the trap of being a mardy bum again. He must keep playing well, scoring runs and contribute to the overall team ethos in the dressing room if he is serious about regaining his place behind the stumps. Joe Root also has to be careful that his relationship with Bairstow (they've come up through the Yorkshire and England ranks together) doesn't cloud his judgement on the matter at hand as I believe it did with Bairstow's inclusion in the 4th Test against India this series. There can be no favourites in the dressing room, every man must be there on merit!
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