February 4, 2016

Jonny's moment

When the supporting act becomes the star

Seize the day: Jonny Bairstow savours his maiden Test hundred © Philip Brown

I'm just back from a trip to South Africa, where I shot three Test matches. I touched down in Cape Town roughly two hours before the second Test began and rushed to the absolutely packed Newlands ground. Locating my accreditation proved to be impossible, but as I had travelled nearly 6000 miles I wasn't going to give up when I was just 50 feet from the field.

I ducked under some turnstiles with my gear and quickly made my way to the media centre. I managed a word with the South African cricket official who had suggested over the phone 10 minutes before, when I was still outside, that I should come back tomorrow, and an appropriate pass was magically produced from someone else who was helpful.

England amassed a huge score in their first innings in Cape Town, thanks to a great partnership of 399 between the swashbuckling Ben Stokes and Yorkshire's Jonny Bairstow. Stokes got most of the attention as he plundered a magnificent 258.

Much of my time was spent attempting to get a nice shot of Stokes walking off the ground with the beautiful Table Mountain in the background. Unfortunately I didn't quite capture the image that I was after.

Scale that down, KP: Pietersen sneaks into Vaughan's celebration at Headlingley, 2007 © Philip Brown

Bairstow had not scored a Test century before this particular match. He had got close, with a 95 against South Africa in England. I find it odd that 99 runs for an individual is viewed as a failure whereas that one more run makes all the difference.

I was kneeling under the England dressing room as Bairstow reached his century. It was an emotional moment and I was very pleased for him. All the current England squad are very friendly and really nice lads (should I say men?) and Jonny is no exception.

Anyway, Bairstow reached his century and celebrated instantly. The light was quite harsh but I knew I was stationed at the correct end of the ground for his impending revelry. He punched the air and leaned right back, shouting at the sky. It almost seemed wrong to photograph his moment as it obviously meant so much to him and had been such a long time coming. His helmet came off and he took another long look at the sky as he held his bat and helmet aloft.

Stokes seemed to know what this all meant to Jonny and left him alone for 22 seconds (cameras having clocks can come in handy), which is a significant amount of time. Well done, Ben.

In contrast, when Michael Vaughan scored a century at Headingley in 2007, after an extended break through injury, it took only 1.3 seconds for an overly excited Kevin Pietersen to wrap himself around Vaughan's neck like an anaconda (or do I mean python?). You know what I mean - like the wrappiest* of snakes. A great effort, really, as Pietersen had been 22 yards away an instant before.

It was great to see and record such an important moment for Bairstow. I hope to see him score many more centuries in the future. A really nice lad.

(*What's the point of having your own column if you can't make up your own words?)

Nikon D4 camera 600mm lens f5 ISO 160 1/1600th

An Australian freelance cricket photographer based in England, Philip Brown has photographed over 150 Test matches around the world

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