Bairstow demands England batsmen recall Headingley in fight to keep Ashes alive
Steve Smith’s latest scoring spree has put Australia in a commanding position in Manchester.
Jonny Bairstow has called on England’s batsmen to take heart from their record chase at Headingley as they look to nullify Steve Smith’s latest masterclass and keep their Ashes campaign alive.
Smith’s merciless 211 powered Australia to 497 for eight declared at Old Trafford, with England set to resume on day three at 23 for one following Joe Denly’s late dismissal.
Having already scored 144, 142 and 92 in his three previous innings before suffering a concussion, Smith’s third double hundred in Ashes cricket might yet settle the battle for the urn.
Even taking Ben Stokes’ miraculous performance in the previous Test into account, the prospects of a home win now seem to be truly remote but a show of steel and some mixed weather forecasts could position things for a draw.
At 1-1 with one to play, that would be enough to set up a decider at the Oval next week but, for now at least, Bairstow wants England to take one step at a time with events in Leeds providing a template.
“If we can go out and apply ourselves, set our stall out to bat for a long period of time like we did at Headingley, there’s no reason why not,” he said.
“There’s three innings still to go in the game. There’s still three days of cricket left. Let’s look at the next day, at the next session, and see where we get to. I don’t think looking too far ahead is the way. We’ve seen two contrasting days with the weather and we’ll see how the pitch changes.”
One potentially crucial issue is the fitness of Stokes, whose heroics so memorably dragged England back from the brink in the third Test.
He pulled up five balls into his third over of the day with a shoulder injury and although he rejoined the fray after receiving treatment he did not bowl again, leaving concerns over his condition.
“As far as I’m concerned if it was very, very serious he wouldn’t have re-taken the field,” said Bairstow.
“We know what a character Ben is, how strong he is mentally and physically. I’m sure it’ll be assessed overnight but as of this moment in time I genuinely don’t know. I haven’t spoken to the physio or the doc.”
Smith was understandably chipper after another memorable day at the crease, admitting his delight after getting a second life on 118 when he was caught at slip off a Jack Leach no-ball that was only called after he got halfway to the pavilion.
“Obviously I had some luck. I think you always need some luck when you score big runs,” he said.
“I thought I was out so I was a bit angry with the shot that I played. When I saw the foot over the line… I thought ‘How good is this? I get to keep on batting!’.
“I made the most of it from there. Obviously I’m really proud to score a double hundred for Australia and put us in the position we’re in now.”