England v Australia, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 1st day July 18, 2013

A priceless inch for Bairstow

While it was galling for Jonny Bairstow to fall to a Steve Smith full toss, his innings had looked to have ended much earlier but Peter Siddle's overstepping have him a crucial second chance
22

It is remarkable how one moment of fortune can shape a career. A life, even.

Consider Nasser Hussain. He was recalled for his first Test in almost three years against India at Edgbaston in June 1996 knowing that another failure could prove fatal to his international aspirations. Those were the days long before the phrase 'continuity of selection' had become familiar in England cricket.

So when Hussain gloved one down the leg side early in his comeback innings, he must have feared the worst. Fortunately for him, though, umpire Darrell Hair, took a different view and Hussain survived. He went on to score his first Test century and cemented his place in the Test side for much of the next decade.

It is no exaggeration to suggest that, without that error from Hair, Hussain may never have become England captain and, as a consequence, might never have become part of the Sky commentary team. He might, even now, be stacking shelves in Tesco.

May Jonny Bairstow have been blessed in similar fashion at Lord's? Bairstow had 21 when, his balance unsteady and his focus not on the ball but on the direction he intended the ball to travel, was beaten by one that may have come back into him a fraction from Peter Siddle and was, for the sixth time in a Test career of 14 completed innings, bowled.

Except it turned out to be a no-ball. By the smallest margin possible it turned out to be a no-ball. And Bairstow was reprieved. He went on to register only his second half-century in his last 10 Test innings and add 144 with Ian Bell. In terms of both his career and the match, this was a crucial innings from Bairstow.

It is worth speculating on what may have happened had Siddle's front foot been a couple of millimetres further back. Bairstow would have been out bowled for the fourth time in five innings (to follow twice against in the warm-up against Essex and once at Trent Bridge) and questions about his form and technique would have grown.

So, too, would questions about the suitability of Joe Root to open the batting. Root, having now opened five times with Alastair Cook (three times in Tests and twice against Essex), has yet to make a 50 and, had both he and Bairstow failed here, there would have been calls to allow him to continue his development away from the new ball and at the expense of Bairstow.

That may have had consequences for Nick Compton, too. While the suspicion lingers that the England selectors have reached a verdict on Compton that bodes ill for his international future, there would have been a gathering case for his recall, possibly as a relatively short-term solution, to allow Root to return to a less pressured middle-order spot and provide the new-ball blunting role that England have yet to convincingly display in the series to date.

None of this means the selectors would have changed tactics - they surely would not have done so soon after adopting a new approach - if Bairstow had failed. But the pressure would have grown, the vultures would have gathered and the chances of succeeding may well have diminished.

This innings does not confirm Bairstow's arrival as a Test player. This is, at this stage of the game at least, an unusually flat pitch, his technical issues remain and his failure to go on and convert his start into a match-defining score was regrettable.

But it will help. It will buy him time, not just from the selectors but from the media, and it will give him renewed confidence. It was a significant step in the right direction.

This was still very much Australia's day. While a couple of England batsmen, not least Bell and Kevin Pietersen, could console themselves with the thought that they had received good deliveries, a couple of the others, not least Bairstow and Jonathan Trott, will reflect with bitter disappointment on the part they played in their own downfall.

On a glorious wicket for batting and against a strong seam attack, but one lacking much variety, they had an excellent opportunity to post a commanding total. But losing three wickets for 12 runs against a part-time leg-spinner who had, before today, all but given up bowling was weak. Anything under 450 in the first innings might be considered a wasted opportunity.

Trott, timing the ball sweetly, is clearly in sublime form. But his failure to cash-in on his good starts will frustrate him as much as it is his side. He has now been dismissed for scores of between 27 and 76 in 10 of his last 12 Test innings with a propensity to give it away after doing all the hard work becoming as regular a feature of his batting as it is unwelcome.

There was more encouraging news in the sustained contribution of Bell. He will face tougher attacks in tougher conditions but, as was the case at Trent Bridge, he came to the crease with his side in trouble in an atmosphere as intense as he will face in a home Test. His almost faultless innings - he reached his 50 with a slice that was not far from point - contained solid defence, no outward sign of pressure and, as he became more established, a succession of gorgeous strokes that spoke of a gift for timing granted to very few.

He is now, along with Hobbs, Hammond and Chris Broad, one of only four England players to have scored centuries in three successive Ashes Tests. His journey has encompassed in a few detours and taken a little longer than expected to reach its destination, but he has now become the player his ability always threatened to make him.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • landl47 on July 18, 2013, 21:43 GMT

    Bairstow has definitely tightened up his technique in the last year. Yes, he still has lapses- the no-ball shot is one he is trying to get rid of and his dismissal was as soft as it gets- but he's playing straighter and tighter than he used to.

    Personally I think Gary Ballance is a better bat and no doubt his time will come, but Bairstow looks far from out of place at #6.

    BTW, although it's true that this was Bairstow's 2nd 50 in his last 10 test innings, it was also his 4th in the last 12, which puts a different face on it.

    And Chitra Kasinathan, Root has been an opener almost his whole career. It was batting at 5 or 6 for England which was out of position for him, not opening.

  • on July 18, 2013, 19:25 GMT

    I don't think Bairstow has a lot of technical flaws. At Test level there is less room for error and you have to learn to constantly make small adjustments, all the time, depending on pitch, bowler etc. so that is when experience comes in.

    It's important to bring in players so they can learn as soon as possible. Bairstow, Root, Taylor are the future of England's batting. It's not a risk as they are very good players, but selection with an eye on the future.

  • ARad on July 19, 2013, 15:22 GMT

    Bairstow out, Compton in and Taylor (whose batting looks ugly but he has been repeatedly succeeding against touring teams and/or A teams which for me suggests a better chance of success than routine county scores against weaker oppositions) should be the understudy. Bairstow must go back to first class cricket and tighten his technique further before he is allowed back. Otherwise, he is a walking wicket.

  • cozens on July 19, 2013, 9:31 GMT

    I was worried about Root as opener. He certianly has huge potential, but I wonder if its too soon for him. On the flip side though. what a great experiance. Give him the whole series, and see where he is at the end. I recall Bell in 2005 looking very much out of his depth, but we can all see what a quality player he has become.

  • MarkTaffin on July 19, 2013, 8:29 GMT

    I think while we all accept Root is by trade a 'real' opener - and have had rammed down our throats by various sections of the media that he was the second coming of Gordon Greenidge - it's just that on the evidence so far, at TEST level he doesn't technically look like an opener.

  • milepost on July 19, 2013, 8:03 GMT

    But Vinay Monty can't get a game for his county side at the moment. England have no need for 2 spinners. I think keeping Root and Bairstow in is good from the Aussie perspective. I do however, think that keeping KP, Prior and Cook quiet for an entire series is unlikely so with the good performances of Trott and Bell England are due for a big score somewhere. Australia have to win the series which means winning 3 games is the only way to get over the line for sure. A very tough ask but they are well positioned in this game and there is plenty of cricket left. Let's see Australia's first innings to gauge how the teams match up.

  • ben.p. on July 19, 2013, 7:57 GMT

    No wonder Nasser Hussain was always a declared 'non-walker'. He owed his career to it. Nevertheless, he will remain in the common memory as having had, shall we say, a less than straightforward reputation for honesty - please don't refer to 'cheating', as the modern media simply won't let you, old boy - with others of his generation, such as Paul Collingwood. They have thereby forfeited any claim they may have had to be included among the game's greats. By the way, ask Nick Compton about his experience of 'continuity of selection'. Much as I want England to win, and much as I wish the young man well, I am relishing the embarrassment that Joe Root's failure as an opener will undoubtedly be causing the selectors.

  • jackthelad on July 19, 2013, 7:50 GMT

    They are not wildly unequal sides, and England would do well to remember this instead of being seduced into complacency by their own pre-season hype. The main difference is that, if Australia were 28 for 3, and if England had four fit and functioning bowlers (unlike at Trent Bridge), Australia would not approach 300 with wickets in hand.

  • on July 19, 2013, 6:17 GMT

    I still wonder if dropping Compton was a good idea. I had been sceptical about it then, I tend to remain sceptical about it now. At least Compton is an opener and I think a better batsman overall than Root. He had been having a bad run in international cricket, but I think it would have been a better idea to have him at the top and push Root down the order.

  • on July 19, 2013, 4:33 GMT

    England need a better opener than Root. Also, Oz has 6 real bowlers including Watson and Smith whereas England has only 4. England need to promote Prior to 6 so that either Woakes or Bresnan can play at 7 and Panesar can come in--many on this Australian line-up do not play spin so well. At least at Old Trafford, England need to play two spinners.

  • landl47 on July 18, 2013, 21:43 GMT

    Bairstow has definitely tightened up his technique in the last year. Yes, he still has lapses- the no-ball shot is one he is trying to get rid of and his dismissal was as soft as it gets- but he's playing straighter and tighter than he used to.

    Personally I think Gary Ballance is a better bat and no doubt his time will come, but Bairstow looks far from out of place at #6.

    BTW, although it's true that this was Bairstow's 2nd 50 in his last 10 test innings, it was also his 4th in the last 12, which puts a different face on it.

    And Chitra Kasinathan, Root has been an opener almost his whole career. It was batting at 5 or 6 for England which was out of position for him, not opening.

  • on July 18, 2013, 19:25 GMT

    I don't think Bairstow has a lot of technical flaws. At Test level there is less room for error and you have to learn to constantly make small adjustments, all the time, depending on pitch, bowler etc. so that is when experience comes in.

    It's important to bring in players so they can learn as soon as possible. Bairstow, Root, Taylor are the future of England's batting. It's not a risk as they are very good players, but selection with an eye on the future.

  • ARad on July 19, 2013, 15:22 GMT

    Bairstow out, Compton in and Taylor (whose batting looks ugly but he has been repeatedly succeeding against touring teams and/or A teams which for me suggests a better chance of success than routine county scores against weaker oppositions) should be the understudy. Bairstow must go back to first class cricket and tighten his technique further before he is allowed back. Otherwise, he is a walking wicket.

  • cozens on July 19, 2013, 9:31 GMT

    I was worried about Root as opener. He certianly has huge potential, but I wonder if its too soon for him. On the flip side though. what a great experiance. Give him the whole series, and see where he is at the end. I recall Bell in 2005 looking very much out of his depth, but we can all see what a quality player he has become.

  • MarkTaffin on July 19, 2013, 8:29 GMT

    I think while we all accept Root is by trade a 'real' opener - and have had rammed down our throats by various sections of the media that he was the second coming of Gordon Greenidge - it's just that on the evidence so far, at TEST level he doesn't technically look like an opener.

  • milepost on July 19, 2013, 8:03 GMT

    But Vinay Monty can't get a game for his county side at the moment. England have no need for 2 spinners. I think keeping Root and Bairstow in is good from the Aussie perspective. I do however, think that keeping KP, Prior and Cook quiet for an entire series is unlikely so with the good performances of Trott and Bell England are due for a big score somewhere. Australia have to win the series which means winning 3 games is the only way to get over the line for sure. A very tough ask but they are well positioned in this game and there is plenty of cricket left. Let's see Australia's first innings to gauge how the teams match up.

  • ben.p. on July 19, 2013, 7:57 GMT

    No wonder Nasser Hussain was always a declared 'non-walker'. He owed his career to it. Nevertheless, he will remain in the common memory as having had, shall we say, a less than straightforward reputation for honesty - please don't refer to 'cheating', as the modern media simply won't let you, old boy - with others of his generation, such as Paul Collingwood. They have thereby forfeited any claim they may have had to be included among the game's greats. By the way, ask Nick Compton about his experience of 'continuity of selection'. Much as I want England to win, and much as I wish the young man well, I am relishing the embarrassment that Joe Root's failure as an opener will undoubtedly be causing the selectors.

  • jackthelad on July 19, 2013, 7:50 GMT

    They are not wildly unequal sides, and England would do well to remember this instead of being seduced into complacency by their own pre-season hype. The main difference is that, if Australia were 28 for 3, and if England had four fit and functioning bowlers (unlike at Trent Bridge), Australia would not approach 300 with wickets in hand.

  • on July 19, 2013, 6:17 GMT

    I still wonder if dropping Compton was a good idea. I had been sceptical about it then, I tend to remain sceptical about it now. At least Compton is an opener and I think a better batsman overall than Root. He had been having a bad run in international cricket, but I think it would have been a better idea to have him at the top and push Root down the order.

  • on July 19, 2013, 4:33 GMT

    England need a better opener than Root. Also, Oz has 6 real bowlers including Watson and Smith whereas England has only 4. England need to promote Prior to 6 so that either Woakes or Bresnan can play at 7 and Panesar can come in--many on this Australian line-up do not play spin so well. At least at Old Trafford, England need to play two spinners.

  • Chris_P on July 18, 2013, 23:47 GMT

    Without bagging him too much, as an Aussie, I am more than happy having Bairstow there ahead of others, as it appears (like a couple of our batsmen too) that there is always a chance of a wicket soon. I have read where Root is a regular FC opener, but there appears to be, from the 2 matches I have seen, some serious issues to address as an opener. Again, I prefer to see him rather than Crompton as Root appears to be a chance of a wicket. Not saying he doesn't deserve to be there, obviously has plenty of talent, but he appears to be most likely to fall as an opener.

  • Beertjie on July 18, 2013, 22:57 GMT

    Bairstow is not the one to be given these opportunities now. England are risking a lot. Bell can't continue to bail them out and when he fails they may come a-cropper. Maybe that's why they picked Bresnan rather than Finn. Hope Rogers comes good on his 'home' turf. This is the moment for a '72-like turn around, so holding thumbs for you boys. Just need some luck which has been conspicuous by its absence.

  • 2.14istherunrate on July 18, 2013, 21:31 GMT

    Thank God for the sideon TV. I like this innovation in cricket as it is worth remembering how many wicket taking nobals one saw in the old days which could never be corrected some of which were more than an inch over. It's not Bairstow's luck but Siddle's lack of attention to the miniscule detail that bought this about. Anyway B'stow played a very necessary innings and looked good till that dreadful patback to Smith. More care is required but I am sure he will come good as a player overall. There are no doubt some better players around but this guy is still potential coming to the party and has the ability to dismantle an attack quite fast. I was convinced after the SA Lords test in a drastic about turn of opinion, so he has my support. GD writes that England are way behind but another 80 runs which is possible would make things even.Batting with commitment and bowling with fire should see us in the ascendancy tomorrow night.

  • BlueyCollar on July 18, 2013, 21:27 GMT

    Teams look pretty even to me. Australia's tailenders look a bit stronger with the bat, their third seamer is stronger and Haddin bats better than Prior. England have a superior spinner and several batsmen that are capable of regular big scores as opposed to Australia only having Clarke. Therefore, for me, this 10 match series hinges on the performances of the last couple of blokes picked in each side. Kawahja / Cowan vs Root / Compton, Hughes vs Bairstow. Injuries may play a major part as well, both sides seem to have depth issues, neither can afford to lose a star. Aussies need Watson and Clarke to hold together for 10 tests and England need Anderson, Swann and Broad to do the same. An injury to any of these may tip the balance. My tip England series - England 2:1 and in Aust, home side winning in Brisb and Perth, draw in Adelaide, England in Melbourne leaving Sydney to decide the series maybe with Swann being the difference.

  • on July 18, 2013, 21:21 GMT

    Chitra - Root IS an opener in FC cricket. Bairstow has hardly batted since April/May. England have handled his opportunities to play badly. Cook has batted through series trying to correct his technique to the ball across him, no one criticises this, so why Bairstow? The lad is under huge pressure, he knows it and scores 67 against a very good bowling attack, yet no praise on here? Scored 95 against the best bowling attack in the world vs South Africa but is still fighting to win over public/media. Think he has a brilliant 3, 4 & 5 ahead of him and Prior behind - leave him where he is and he will come good. Should have played more for Yorkshire instead of carrying drinksbin the one dayers. Compton will take part in this series of 10 matches, no batting line up can stay unchanged for that long, and he is a very good batter.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 18, 2013, 20:05 GMT

    Created a few more headaches for selectors - but better this way than having a bare cupboard right? Biggest loser in all this is no doubt Compton, unfortunately.

  • chitti_cricket on July 18, 2013, 19:59 GMT

    Jonny Bairstow vs Nick Crompton, Nick should win any day on technique hands down. This lad though fiercely competitive looks lagging in technique. All England had done after their first three wickets down for 23/28 odd has gone again in vein. Again a beautiful ball to get rid of Ian Bell but this guy again got out to a ball any test batsman would be ashamed of. England has to strengthen their upper middle order, their lower middle order looks fine with Prior, Broad but their upper middle order has only Bell who can give impetus to their batting innings. England have to give a thought there. Some how to me England's batting order does not looks that strong when opposition does a little bit effort. Other than first three wickets Clarke did not do any good. He should have introduced double spin on this dry pitch instead of persisting with fast bowlers. That gave a breather to England batsmen.

  • ThyrSaadam on July 18, 2013, 19:52 GMT

    Root is being pushed into an uncompromising position. Having said that even if Bairstow has some success, if Root isnt as effective as on opener they will drop Bairstow without thinking twice. I think Root offers a more complete package than Bairstow + his bowling. Haven't followed Root over the years, but will he be kept in the side just for the early promise he showed?

  • MarkTaffin on July 18, 2013, 19:46 GMT

    Of course, this isn't a 5 Test series, it's 10. Root and JB will survive all 5 in the UK 'cos Flower and Miller have deemed it so, but how do the selectors handle them if they only have average or worse series when they put out teams for Brisbane and beyond?

  • on July 18, 2013, 19:23 GMT

    I thought India was the only team to promoteno.5, 6 and 7 as openers in a first class match leaving their regular openers being dropped for some reason or other.Sorry to see England following the same route. Both the countries are not short of good openers. The promotion of non regular players to open the innings will create unwanted Pressure for the lower order.and play for their self than for their teams. I want to see regular openers playing for their respective countries. Hope Compton takes his spot and Root to no5 or 6 in the next test Kashinath

  • RahulPaTiL25 on July 18, 2013, 19:08 GMT

    @Cyril_Knight- Ok well he definitely isn't anywhere close to as good as some say he is but i think he is one for the future and well given that he is a wicket keeper as well, definitely should keep playing him till he is settled and he could prove to be an invaluable back-up for prior ! though the other yorkshire-man is pretty disappointing so far in the series and i think its high time nick compton gets back into the side he rightfully deserves it while compared to Root on current form. And honest;y..Tim Bresnan again? come on! you have better bowlers than him.

  • Cyril_Knight on July 18, 2013, 18:50 GMT

    A question for England fans: does anyone think Bairstow is one of the six best batsmen in England?

    While he may grow into a good Test player he has so many technical flaws. Is Test cricket and 10 Ashes Tests in a row the place to iron these out?

    It strikes me that England that England believe they will win easily this summer and can afford to take developmental risks with both Root and Bairstow. And I think they are right.

  • Cyril_Knight on July 18, 2013, 18:50 GMT

    A question for England fans: does anyone think Bairstow is one of the six best batsmen in England?

    While he may grow into a good Test player he has so many technical flaws. Is Test cricket and 10 Ashes Tests in a row the place to iron these out?

    It strikes me that England that England believe they will win easily this summer and can afford to take developmental risks with both Root and Bairstow. And I think they are right.

  • RahulPaTiL25 on July 18, 2013, 19:08 GMT

    @Cyril_Knight- Ok well he definitely isn't anywhere close to as good as some say he is but i think he is one for the future and well given that he is a wicket keeper as well, definitely should keep playing him till he is settled and he could prove to be an invaluable back-up for prior ! though the other yorkshire-man is pretty disappointing so far in the series and i think its high time nick compton gets back into the side he rightfully deserves it while compared to Root on current form. And honest;y..Tim Bresnan again? come on! you have better bowlers than him.

  • on July 18, 2013, 19:23 GMT

    I thought India was the only team to promoteno.5, 6 and 7 as openers in a first class match leaving their regular openers being dropped for some reason or other.Sorry to see England following the same route. Both the countries are not short of good openers. The promotion of non regular players to open the innings will create unwanted Pressure for the lower order.and play for their self than for their teams. I want to see regular openers playing for their respective countries. Hope Compton takes his spot and Root to no5 or 6 in the next test Kashinath

  • MarkTaffin on July 18, 2013, 19:46 GMT

    Of course, this isn't a 5 Test series, it's 10. Root and JB will survive all 5 in the UK 'cos Flower and Miller have deemed it so, but how do the selectors handle them if they only have average or worse series when they put out teams for Brisbane and beyond?

  • ThyrSaadam on July 18, 2013, 19:52 GMT

    Root is being pushed into an uncompromising position. Having said that even if Bairstow has some success, if Root isnt as effective as on opener they will drop Bairstow without thinking twice. I think Root offers a more complete package than Bairstow + his bowling. Haven't followed Root over the years, but will he be kept in the side just for the early promise he showed?

  • chitti_cricket on July 18, 2013, 19:59 GMT

    Jonny Bairstow vs Nick Crompton, Nick should win any day on technique hands down. This lad though fiercely competitive looks lagging in technique. All England had done after their first three wickets down for 23/28 odd has gone again in vein. Again a beautiful ball to get rid of Ian Bell but this guy again got out to a ball any test batsman would be ashamed of. England has to strengthen their upper middle order, their lower middle order looks fine with Prior, Broad but their upper middle order has only Bell who can give impetus to their batting innings. England have to give a thought there. Some how to me England's batting order does not looks that strong when opposition does a little bit effort. Other than first three wickets Clarke did not do any good. He should have introduced double spin on this dry pitch instead of persisting with fast bowlers. That gave a breather to England batsmen.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 18, 2013, 20:05 GMT

    Created a few more headaches for selectors - but better this way than having a bare cupboard right? Biggest loser in all this is no doubt Compton, unfortunately.

  • on July 18, 2013, 21:21 GMT

    Chitra - Root IS an opener in FC cricket. Bairstow has hardly batted since April/May. England have handled his opportunities to play badly. Cook has batted through series trying to correct his technique to the ball across him, no one criticises this, so why Bairstow? The lad is under huge pressure, he knows it and scores 67 against a very good bowling attack, yet no praise on here? Scored 95 against the best bowling attack in the world vs South Africa but is still fighting to win over public/media. Think he has a brilliant 3, 4 & 5 ahead of him and Prior behind - leave him where he is and he will come good. Should have played more for Yorkshire instead of carrying drinksbin the one dayers. Compton will take part in this series of 10 matches, no batting line up can stay unchanged for that long, and he is a very good batter.

  • BlueyCollar on July 18, 2013, 21:27 GMT

    Teams look pretty even to me. Australia's tailenders look a bit stronger with the bat, their third seamer is stronger and Haddin bats better than Prior. England have a superior spinner and several batsmen that are capable of regular big scores as opposed to Australia only having Clarke. Therefore, for me, this 10 match series hinges on the performances of the last couple of blokes picked in each side. Kawahja / Cowan vs Root / Compton, Hughes vs Bairstow. Injuries may play a major part as well, both sides seem to have depth issues, neither can afford to lose a star. Aussies need Watson and Clarke to hold together for 10 tests and England need Anderson, Swann and Broad to do the same. An injury to any of these may tip the balance. My tip England series - England 2:1 and in Aust, home side winning in Brisb and Perth, draw in Adelaide, England in Melbourne leaving Sydney to decide the series maybe with Swann being the difference.

  • 2.14istherunrate on July 18, 2013, 21:31 GMT

    Thank God for the sideon TV. I like this innovation in cricket as it is worth remembering how many wicket taking nobals one saw in the old days which could never be corrected some of which were more than an inch over. It's not Bairstow's luck but Siddle's lack of attention to the miniscule detail that bought this about. Anyway B'stow played a very necessary innings and looked good till that dreadful patback to Smith. More care is required but I am sure he will come good as a player overall. There are no doubt some better players around but this guy is still potential coming to the party and has the ability to dismantle an attack quite fast. I was convinced after the SA Lords test in a drastic about turn of opinion, so he has my support. GD writes that England are way behind but another 80 runs which is possible would make things even.Batting with commitment and bowling with fire should see us in the ascendancy tomorrow night.