England v West Indies, 1st Test, Lord's May 14, 2012

Bairstow encourages England punt

Jonny Bairstow has impressed for England in the one-day game, possessed with a competitive spirit, a natural power and a sharp eye. With such a combination it is little wonder England are in a rush to discover whether he has the aptitude for Test cricket.

Bairstow, the batsman who has left England eager to find out more about him, now faces the challenge of the Lord's slope, a talented West Indies attack in bowler-friendly conditions and the rhythms of the five-day game.

When he makes his debut in the first Test against West Indies, starting on Thursday, he and his late father David will become the 13th father-son combination to play for England. Perhaps a Test debut will come at the right time for Bairstow. His natural instincts might be checked by the Test environment. He will be expected to learn and adjust. He is the sort of vigorous and exciting batsman who makes selectors want to take a punt.

By contrast, the player he has been preferred to, James Taylor, has been left at Nottinghamshire to refine his approach in less high-profile surroundings. Taylor took a bold decision to make the move to Trent Bridge where bowler-friendly conditions can expose his tendency to play across the line but working out his game in difficult batting conditions and success in Division One is his route to future England honours and everyone expects him to get there.

Bairstow will have to play differently than his other innings at Lord's last August but his previous knock provides a good omen: he made 114 from 136 balls with a West Indian, Corey Colleymore, opening the bowling. That was his first century in one-day cricket.

He has also made five first-class centuries, the latest of which came at Scarborough against Leicestershire. His 182 came in a testing scenario, Yorkshire were 33 for 3 when he arrived at the crease, the type of situation where Bairstow has thrived.

"It's probably inner grit," Bairstow said. "I think it's a good attitude to have, thinking 'right we're up against the wall, I want to dig us out of this situation.' It perhaps comes naturally to me; I haven't necessarily worked on it but I'm pleased to have it."

Another natural talent is his power: the asset immediately evident following his 41 from 21 balls on debut in Cardiff which won England the ODI against India. But Bairstow says there is a time and a place for both power, and touch and control - the latter will be the more important skill on Thursday.

Power and an eye for the ball were the initial factors in digging Yorkshire out of a hole at Scarborough. Only after tea on the first day when the scoreboard was more pleasant for the hosts did he settle and knuckle down towards and beyond his hundred. It took time for him to look like a proper Test player: he does have it but his state of mind is generally to be aggressive.

"The mindset I took to Scarborough, to Northampton, to here at Lord's will be the same. It isn't something you can flick on and flick off. Mindset is something that you can only naturally do. Thursday will be the same as every other day. If the ball's there to be hit, it's there to be hit."

But this week Bairstow is the latest man to take possession of the troublesome No. 6 slot. He will want to ensure his tenure is longer than the more recent occupants - Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan - whose path to Test cricket through prowess in the one-day arena draws parallels.

He will also have a very keen eye to help him in Geoffrey Boycott - a close family friend. Boycott's wife telephoned Bairstow's mother to offer her congratulations. His mother and sister should be at Lord's this week.

"Geoffrey is very much, if you want to speak to him you can do," Bairstow said. "I'm very grateful to have someone like that. I haven't really picked his brains but it's possible I could speak to him about his experience. I'll probably catch up with him at some point."

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

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