England v West Indies, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge, 3rd day May 27, 2012

Bresnan battles but Bairstow struggles

England are on course to win the second Test after a day of contrasting fortunes for their two Yorkshiremen

Maybe they did not achieve domination in the manner they had planned but, by stumps at Trent Bridge, England had taken what will surely prove an unassailable grip on this match and this series. While Plan A - to amass an imposing first innings lead and bat once in the game - had to be abandoned, Plan B - to dismiss West Indies cheaply in their second innings - has been well executed.

There is some hope for West Indies. Not only do both first innings centurions remain unbeaten, but the tourists can take some encouragement in the performance of their three seamers earlier in the day. On a pitch offering them little, they performed admirably to restrict England's lead to 58. While their top-order batting remains so brittle, however, this team will rarely take advantage of their bowling prowess.

Perhaps the most heartening aspect of this performance from an England perspective has been the performance of Tim Bresnan. The selection of the 27-year-old Yorkshireman as third seamer was one of the few talking points going into this Test, with Steven Finn pushing hard for inclusion.

Here, however, Bresnan has provided another reminder of his undemonstrative all-round qualities. First, coming to the crease with his side still 34 in arrears and the new ball just 11 overs old, Bresnan helped England manufacture a lead of 58 in what he called a "battling" two-and-a-half hours at the crease, before he demonstrated his ability to reverse-swing the ball in a spell of three wickets for nine runs in 26 deliveries that drove another nail into the coffin of West Indies' hopes.

Bresnan bristles at the suggestion that he is some sort of 'lucky mascot' for England. It suggests, after all, that it is something of a coincidence that the team have won all 12 of the Tests in which he has played.

It is not so. Bresnan has played a telling part in many of those results and deserves respect for that. He is not, perhaps, as 'box office' as Finn, whose extra pace renders him such an exciting sight, but reliability and consistency are just as valuable qualities and Bresnan fulfils the role, with bat and ball, that this team require. Finn may be frustrated for some time yet.

"I prefer being called a lucky charm to being called a mascot," Bresnan said afterwards. "Mascots dress in silly outfits and do flick-flacks on the side of the pitch.

"I thought I may as well have left my pads in the car at the start of the day. West Indies bowled really well and all credit to them. It wasn't what we expected with the bat, but we've come back strong with the ball. To get them 60 for six on that wicket is a phenomenal effort.

"I suppose I didn't have the best of games at Lord's. I do like to make a contribution in whatever capacity I can and I didn't really do that at Lord's. But I feel I've made a decent contribution here and made a difference to this game."

"It is too early to jump to conclusions about Bairstow's ability at this level. Roach, with his fast arm and skiddy delivery, has troubled the likes of Ricky Ponting in the past"

There is only one cloud on the horizon for England. Bresnan's Yorkshire colleague, Jonny Bairstow, endured a less happy day and appeared to be exposed by the pace and hostility of Kemar Roach. It was not so much the dismissal - Bairstow, hopping in anticipation of a short ball, spooned a simple catch off the leading edge to mid-on - that caused the concern, but the way in which he had played the previous deliveries. One had struck him on the glove; another on the chest. Bairstow looked deeply uncomfortable.

It is too early to jump to conclusions about Bairstow's ability at this level. This only his second Test, an experience sure to fill even the calmest head with nerves. More pertinently, he was also up against a fine and unusual bowler. Roach, with his fast arm and skiddy delivery, has troubled the likes of Ricky Ponting in the past. It is no disgrace to take time to adjust to such a proposition. Bairstow is only 22. He has time on his side.

But this pitch was slow. Certainly, if he is to enjoy a long Test career, he will come up against quicker bowlers on quicker wickets. You can be sure that, across the world, his discomfort will have been noted by Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and co. If Bairstow plays in the series against South Africa, he is sure to be tested by the short ball.

It would be simplistic to state that Bairstow is simply not used to bowlers of Roach's pace. He will have played with and against plenty of quick bowlers in county cricket over the last few years - Finn, Stuart Meaker, Steve Harmison, Sajid Mahmood, Tymal Mills, Graeme Napier, Chris Tremlett et al - but there have been whispers, even among members of the England Performance Programme, about his ability to deal with the short ball for a while. Indeed, only a few weeks ago he was troubled and then dismissed by Mills - a left-arm bowler of unusual pace - in the Championship match against Essex. Bairstow has scored only five first-class centuries and just two have come in the top division of the County Championship.

It is worth remembering that Bairstow was not England's first choice in this series. Had Ravi Bopara been fit, he would have played. But England, having moved on from Eoin Morgan and unsure whether James Taylor was ready, instead took a chance on Bairstow largely due to his encouraging displays in limited-overs internationals.

There is some logic in that selection. Bairstow has shown the England management that he has the character to thrive on the big occasion and fit in with the team environment. Those are important factors. It was a gamble, though. Test cricket has a habit of exposing even the smallest weakness and Roach's spell hinted that this opportunity may have come just a little early in Bairstow's career.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on May 29, 2012, 22:21 GMT

    @VillageBlacksmith/hammond - I actually think this poster is having a bit of light hearted fun rather than the sniping variey we usually get on here

  • John on May 28, 2012, 20:42 GMT

    @Giovaughn Wilson on (May 28 2012, 04:50 AM GMT) Maybe we could do a loan swap for Samuels

  • John on May 28, 2012, 20:40 GMT

    @Kate Claydon on (May 28 2012, 10:28 AM GMT) To me, the more I think about it the more I'm convinced that this is the right way to go. If we had a number 6 who was averaging mid 40s then it would be more of a dilemma. Nice to have a female fan commenting on here too.

  • John on May 28, 2012, 20:29 GMT

    @landl47 on (May 28 2012, 00:49 AM GMT) Bres is averaging better than any of our bowlers both with bat and ball. If Finn comes in we either have to drop Bres , Broad , Anderson or Swann - UNLESS we go 5/1/5.

  • John on May 28, 2012, 20:26 GMT

    @mcheckley on (May 28 2012, 08:52 AM GMT) Bres has better stats than Broad with both bat and ball. I'd say Bres is a better batsman personally

  • John on May 28, 2012, 20:24 GMT

    @MattyP1979 on (May 28 2012, 00:55 AM GMT) We were struggling to get 10 wkts in the 1st inns and against SA we might struggle to take 20 wkts with 4 bowlers. Just one counter question , what has whoever we have chosen as our number 6 batsman done in 2011/12? I really am struggling to think of a game changing contribution any of our number 6s have made. Maybe when we get a game changing contribution from our number 6 I'll change my views

  • John on May 28, 2012, 20:18 GMT

    @landl47 on (May 28 2012, 00:49 AM GMT) all the time we have been trying to get a number 6 who averages what a batsman is supposed to average and failed and Prior has been averaging that at 7. Surely - even in our winning summer of 2011 - Finn would have done more with the ball than Bopara and Morgan did with the bat. SA are going to be harder to dislodge with 4 bowlers as they have a better batting line up.To me if we have a number 7 or 8 who is averaging around the same as our number 6 (actually better) and it means we get another quality bowler in the side it's a no brainer

  • anthony on May 28, 2012, 15:59 GMT

    @Giovaughan, I think you must be in the minority to think Bresnan isnt worthy of his spot in the england team granted its early days but his record over the last dozen test is fantastic and makes him one of the very best allrounders in the world and some 1 who really contributes to getting a result.Sure he is around great players and that makes a difference as someone like sammy who isnt and has tehg extra pressure thus. Finally i think u should add Pakistan along with South Africa as the test teams he wouldnt get into as a bowler, Im sure the aussies would love him tho.

  • Charles on May 28, 2012, 11:52 GMT

    Assuming we go 2 nil up the selectors should consider resting Bell or Pieterson and trying one of the Lions ( Carberry , Compton or Taylor ) at number 5 . South African bowling attack is awesome and we will need a number 6 performing and hitting runs.The contenders at the moment are Bairstow and Bopara as the 3 Lions are untried at Test level. If Bairstow hits runs at number 6 in the 3rd test , the place is his but if Roach gets him cheaply again he can not be considered against SA with Steyn etc.

  • S on May 28, 2012, 11:23 GMT

    Everyone is entitled to an opinion.....but quite frankly as long as we win i dont mind who is picked, but for the moment if it isnt broke.........

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