@ovshake42 5 minute read
Fifth place in Wisden’s men’s Test innings of the year countdown, part of the 2022 in Review series, is Jonny Bairstow’s 106 against India at Edgbaston. Abhishek Mukherjee lauds an innings that epitomised England’s greatest exponent of their remarkable batting strategy.
Jonny Bairstow 106
England v India
July 2, 3
Bairstow’s was the fourth-highest and fourth-quickest of the five hundreds in the Birmingham Test. It was the lower and slower of his two hundreds. Yet, his innings was when England, with their back against the wall, began to wrest control of the match: two days later, they emerged triumphant to level the series.
Bairstow had come into this split Test series with scores of 15 and 0, 6 and 0, 0 and 18, 0 and 0, 28 and 0 in his last five Test matches against India. He did get a fifty in Lord’s and four other scores of 29 or more, but by the time COVID-19 had split the series into two in September 2021, there was no indication of what the summer of 2022 had in store for him.
During the ten-month gap between the fourth and fifth Test matches, he had got hundreds in Sydney and Antigua. But England won neither Test match and lost both series, and the innings were both forgotten after a run of 20 and 29, 0 and 22, 1 and 16. With Harry Brook’s domestic form demanding selection, Bairstow’s Test spot was once more under scrutiny.
After making eight in the first innings of Trent Bridge, Bairstow first gave the world a taste of Bazball, England’s no-holds-barred batting approach that defined the second half of 2022. He raced to a hundred in 77 balls, and for the first time in years (but not the last time in the year) did Gilbert Jessop’s record for the fastest Test hundred for England seem under threat.
He followed that 92-ball 136 with a 157-ball 162 and a 44-ball 71 not out in Headingley. By the time India returned to finish the series, he was ready.
India were 2-1 up in that series. All they needed was a draw. Deprived of their regular openers, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul (who had been elevated as captain and vice-captain), they were reduced to 98-5 before Rishabh Pant (146) and Ravindra Jadeja (104) added 222. Then Jasprit Bumrah, in his first Test match as captain, put Stuart Broad into the record books by taking 35 off an over.
India made 416. Their bowling attack consisted of Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, and Jadeja, all of whom averaged under 30 at that point. It kept raining intermittently on the second day, allowing Bumrah & co. precious moments of rest, first at 31-2, then at 60-3.
By stumps, England were 84-5 after 27 overs. India had not allowed them the breathing space for Bazball. They were firm favourites to win the series, if not the Test match.
On the second day, Bairstow had not looked the same man who had decimated New Zealand in Trent Bridge and Headingley. He had survived a close leg-before appeal against Bumrah, while Shami had beaten his outside edge a couple of times. He had faced 47 balls for his 12, but he had survived that phase of play.
Ben Stokes seemed the more dominant of the two next morning, taking charge as Bairstow played and missed against both Bumrah and Shami several times. Virat Kohli uttered a couple of words. Bairstow responded. Ian Bishop’s warning fell on deaf years – perhaps because it seemed only a matter of time before India got Bairstow.
Don’t poke the Bear that is Johnny Bairstow again please……..
— Ian Raphael Bishop (@irbishi) July 3, 2022
A thick edge soon flew over cover-point. “Could do well to be off strike for a couple of deliveries,” quipped Nasser Hussain on air. Bairstow had taken 66 balls for his 17, and had hardly looked the same man who had scored four Test hundreds in the last six months.
All that changed with the gorgeous off-drive off Bumrah. He did not try to keep it down, for he had hit it too straight to take the elevation out of the equation. Now the limited-overs shots followed, one by one. First, a chipped off-drive off Shami for four.
Bumrah gave way to Siraj. This was what England had been waiting for. England had specifically targeted some bowlers against New Zealand. Against India, they played out Bumrah and Shami – and went after Siraj and Thakur. This was easier said than done: in the 2021 leg of the series, Siraj had taken 14 wickets at 30.71 and Thakur seven in 22. They were the third and fourth bowlers of the attack, but they were still very good bowlers in these conditions.
Yet, at Edgbaston, England scored at 3.89 off Bumrah and Shami, and at 6.22 off Siraj and Thakur. And this was the phase when it all began.
Off consecutive balls, Bairstow turned Siraj through mid-wicket for four, then lofted him through the left of cover. At the other end, he flicked Shami, without bothering to keep the ball down. Then he casually chipped the next ball over mid-on. The fifty took him 81 balls, but he was just warming up.
Out came the lofted drives again, over mid-off and mid-on, off consecutive Siraj on either side of an over from Thakur. The slips were there when he faced Thakur, but he simply steered over them, then glided one through backward point. Eight more.
A thundering pull off Siraj landed into the stands. Thakur was flicked for four, then he EASportsCricket2007d over wide long-on for six. Bairstow overturned an LBW review, and then it rained again. When play resumed, Bairstow flicked the first ball past mid-wicket for four. A rested Bumrah returned, Jadeja came on, but in vain – there was no stopping Bairstow.
The hundred, off 119 balls, was his slowest of the summer – but the last 83 of that had taken 34 balls. By the time Shami got him, Bairstow had taken England to 175 runs of India. His 106 came out of a total of 284: none of his teammates went past 36.
Defending 378, India had reduced England to 109-3, but then they ran into Bairstow yet again. The man who had made six ducks in five Test matches now made his second hundred of the Test match. This was the higher, quicker of the two hundreds – and unbeaten to boot, but it did have Joe Root matching him stroke for stroke at the other end as the pair added 269 at nearly five an over, being particularly harsh against Siraj and Thakur.
The second hundred – 114 not out in 145 balls – was special by any standards. But it did not come on the back of 84-5. And it was the first-innings solo effort that had helped England establish the dominance over Siraj and Thakur, something the pair never recovered from in the Test match.