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News

Jonny Bairstow on his 100th Test: 'I'll puff my chest out and try to have a good time'

England's latest caps centurion looks to finish India series on a high in Dharamsala

Jonny Bairstow at the venue of his 100th Test, Dharamsala, March 5, 2024

Jonny Bairstow at the venue of his 100th Test  •  Getty Images

"I'm proud. You know what I'm like, an emotional guy, so yeah - get the tissues ready."
Jonny Bairstow is ready to embrace the tears this week ahead of earning his 100th Test cap at the picturesque HPCA stadium in the fifth and final Test of this India-England series. A journey that began at Lord's in May 2012 will culminate under the gaze of the Himalayas, as he becomes just the 17th Englishman to reach a century of Test appearances.
"It's absolutely stunning here," Bairstow said of the setting, where he also reached 100 ODI caps during last year's World Cup. "I don't think there's a more picturesque ground in the world. Cape Town is one of my favourite places, but when you take a moment, look up at the mountains with the snow and everything that goes with it up here in Dharamsala, it's quite incredible."
Bairstow's family and close friends arrived on Monday, and will be alongside him for Thursday's cap presentation. It is as much their moment as his, particularly his partner and nine-month-old son, and mother, Janet. She brought up Jonny and his sister, Becky, after their father, David, committed suicide in 1997. Jonny was eight at the time.
Janet was battling breast cancer then as well, which returned in 2012 and led to Bairstow returning home from what was his first tour of India. All of which makes her presence here in India that little bit more special.
"The strength and courage she's shown to bring us both up, support us tthrough the journey is huge. Without her, we wouldn't be here today," he said. "It's a special occasion for everyone who has been there on the journey, from the guys at the Yorkshire academy through to Baz and the guys here - everyone has had an input. Some better than others ... but you have to pick the good bits out and it all adds to the jigsaw at the end of the puzzle."
As far as favourite Tests go, Cape Town 2016, when he scored the first of 12 centuries, features high. Likewise, the 2022 home fixtures against New Zealand and India, at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston, respectively, which encompassed a remarkable run of four centuries in five innings. He made one in each innings against India, as well as a match-winning 71 not out in the second innings at Headingley against the Blackcaps sandwiched in between. Even a defeat to South Africa at Lord's at the end of his first summer in 2012 gets a mention for the high-calibre supporting cast.
"It's difficult to go beyond that summer," Bairstow said, recalling the 2022 home season in which he made 681 runs in six Tests, at an average of 75.66. "They were pretty special Test matches in the way the group came together and the way in which everyone bought into a style of playing cricket that the world started speaking about.
"It's just been a pure pleasure to play with some of the greatest of the game, to play alongside and share the field. When I started, you look at the line-up: Strauss, Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Prior, Swann, Anderson, Bresnan, Broad - that's a pretty good team.
"You look at the guys you've grown up playing with. Jimmy is still going, Rooty I've played with since I was 12. Ben we have played against since we were 13, to share the journey with those guys. Woody and I played against each other at Under-11s and we look back on that and laugh about it with so much pride."
Even through indulging sentimentality, England have a 3-1 scoreline to improve. This fifth Test not only provides the chance of a silver lining to a series defeat, but also gives them the opportunity to become the first team to win two Tests in India since Alastair Cook's charges inflicted the host's last series defeat in almost 12 years.
Conditions in Dharamsala are chilly enough to rival the early season of the County Championship - not that many of this squad have experienced that in a while. Seam is set to play a more prominent part, with England considering the use of three quicks for the first time on this trip. The pitch itself was last used in the second week of February for Himachal Pradesh's Ranji Trophy match with Delhi in which all 36 wickets taken fell to seamers.
For Bairstow, a score of note to mark the occasion would go some way to improving on what has been a tough series with the bat. There have been five scores of 25 or above across eight innings, but none higher than 38, leaving him with an average of 21.25. He is also 26 away from 6,000 career runs.
"I have felt good all series, just not got the runs I've wanted to ... a couple of good balls, a couple of bad decisions [on his part rather than the umpires']. But that's what happens in India, it's allowed to happen. The whole trip I've been happy with how I've been moving, I've been in the zone the whole way.
"Like in every game, you put your best foot forward. No matter what it is, I'll be going out there, chewing my gum, puffing my chest out and trying to have a good time with the other ten blokes out there. Whatever the situation is, we'll be going out there with smiles on our faces, like we have done in the whole series."

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo