Jonny Bairstow insists England stand ready to chase down any target after his fifth century of a vintage year was not enough to prevent India building a big lead at Edgbaston.
Bairstow continued his remarkable run of form in 2022 with a counter-punching 106 against a high-class India attack. But 36 from Sam Billings was the side’s next best score as they gave up a 132-run first-innings lead.
By the end of the third day that was up to 257, with Cheteshwar Pujara’s solid half-century leading India to 125 for three.
England proved their credentials as fearless chasers in their whitewash over New Zealand, reeling in 277, 299 and 296, with Bairstow at the heart of their efforts.
And, even though they are likely to be faced with a much steeper challenge this time, he sees no reason to back down.
“Whatever they set, they set and we’ll go about in the same manner. Why not?” said Bairstow.
“There’s no point in looking at figures and everything like that. We know it’s going to be on day four, day five pitches that we’re going to play on but that’s okay. Recently, it’s been a lot of fun.
Whatever they set, they set and we'll go about in the same mannerJonny Bairstow
“It’s fantastic playing in front of these full houses, playing for the fans and inspiring the next generation of Test cricket coming through. Hopefully we’re putting smiles back on people’s faces and bums on seats.”
Invited to explain his stunning gear shift as a Test cricketer – Bairstow had a career average of 33.49 at the start of 2022 but has raised that to 67.69 in the eight games since the turn of the year – he had a surprisingly basic explanation.
“I’ve not really thought of technique and stuff like that, I’ve just stripped everything back and tried to focus on watching the ball,” he said.
“There’s my honest answer. I’ve never been a great technician, have I? That’s why people have torn me to shreds a few times: going leg side of it, going off side of it, bowled through the gate.
“I’m pretty pleased with how it’s going at the moment. That’s why we love Test cricket, isn’t it? There’s ebbs and flows all the way through.”
Bairstow’s latest century was split into two distinct phases, with his scoring rate shooting up dramatically after a verbal spat with former India captain Virat Kohli.
Having previously struggled to impose himself on the bowlers, the incident appeared to inspire him to unload a flurry of boundaries.
But he was in diplomatic mood afterwards, explaining: “There was literally nothing to it.
“We’ve been fortunate to play against each other for over 10 years now, so we’ve had some some fierce battles on the field and we’re very lucky. You’ve got 11 guys on each side who are very passionate to do so well for their country. It was great craic out there.”
Mohammed Siraj praised Pujara for his efforts in the evening session, with the stalwart building his side’s position with admirable self-restraint.
“He is a warrior. When the team needs it, he just has this attitude,” said Siraj.
“When it is a tough situation he wants to stand up and deliver.”