Cow Corner

Bairstow proves he’s cut out for Test cricket

South Africa's fast-bowling attack has outshone England's throughout the series, but one young batsman proved his Test capabilities at Lord's with a hugely impressive innings in testing circumstances.

Jonny Bairstow's talent with the bat was evident from an early age, but coming into this match he was yet to prove himself at the highest level with four faltering innings at an average of 12.66.

With a previous highest score in Test cricket of 18 from three Tests, Bairstow was very much considered to be a precocious talent whose technique was yet to be refined to a sufficient extent.

The 22-year-old, who is the son of the former England wicketkeeper David Bairstow, came to the crease on day two of the crucial third and final Test with his side 54 for four and reeling after losing a flurry of quick wickets.

He quickly settled at the crease and forged a gutsy partnership with Ian Bell as the pair rebuilt for the hosts under immense pressure from South Africa's pacemen, and it was the temperament and composure of the Yorkshireman which so impressed.

It has always been believed that, long term, he would be a specialist international batsman, and his debut innings in one-day internationals backed up that theory as he hit an unbeaten 41 off 21 balls against India at Cardiff.

But an arduous tour of India demonstrated the realities of international cricket, and many began to doubt whether he would be able to hack it at the top level in the longest and most challenging format of the game.

His technique was always going to be under intense scrutiny and South Africa quickly pounced on the idea that Bairstow could not stand up to the short ball. What ensued was the inevitable barrage of bouncers and chin music, but he rose to the challenge.

Bairstow took on two of the world's best fast bowlers with courage, confidence and conviction, managing to not only survive, but to play his shots to good effect when appropriate.

Given the furore of Kevin Pietersen's omission, it was never going to be easy for the 22-year-old Yorkshireman to come into the side and take on the swaggering Proteas in a must-win Test match, but he has managed to thrive.

After his match-winning T20 innings against Pakistan in the UAE and a strong start to the 2012 season, Bairstow was handed a call-up to the Test squad to face West Indies, but it did not go his own way and he was pushed down the pecking order once more.

While everyone was left to debate the absence of Pietersen, his replacement had to refocus and prepare for the toughest test of his career to date.

Bairstow strode off to a standing ovation at Lord's with 72 runs to his name, and a maiden Test century will be in his sights on day three. The way he has played thus far, it would be foolish to suggest that he will not achieve it.

One Test innings does not make an England batsman, but the strength of character, application and talent showed by Bairstow against the best bowling attack in the world in a tremendously tough match situation suggests he is a talent to be appreciated.

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TWEET OF THE DAY: "Today is a day the Bairstow family never forget.....!! Well played Jonny you will never forget that walk back to the pavilion tonight..!!" (@BeefyBotham)

STAT OF THE DAY: Strauss's scores in this series: 0, 27, 37, 22 and 20. Graham Gooch would not be happy with his habit of getting in, then getting out.

USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: "Strauss has handled the Pietersen affair with dignity and diplomacy. Fortunately for England, he is tough enough to deal with this and not let it impact on his main job of skippering the team. Good luck to one of England's best captains in recent years in his 100th Test and 50th at the helm. As to Pietersen, because of his self-centred attitude, his is a divisive influence on the team and England are better off without him." (Tony from Samranrat, Thailand)

SHOT OF THE DAY: If you can't take a quick nap while playing at Lord's, when can you?