@Rich_Wisden 5 minute read
Jonny Bairstow is “desperately proud” after claiming an emotional century on his Test comeback on day one of the third Test against Sri Lanka, as England reached 312-7 at stumps.
Late wickets ensured it was a good day rather than a great one for the tourists in Colombo, but they may have solved their problematic No.3 position, with the Yorkshireman becoming the first England batsman to reach triple figures from first drop in two years.
The 29-year-old hit 110 off 186 balls to help England – who are chasing a 3-0 series whitewash, which Joe Root believes would be a “brilliant achievement” – reach 235-3 at tea, but Sri Lanka fought back in the final session to see off Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Ben Foakes. Lakshan Rangika was the pick of the bowlers with 4-91.
Remarkably, Bairstow, who recorded his sixth Test ton, has now recorded at least one Test half-century whilst batting in positions three, five, six, seven and eight in the order.
The fiery Yorkshireman made several bellows towards the England dressing room when he reached the milestone – an outward expression of the frustration he endured when he was left out of the line-up for the second Test. The selectors kept a winning side intact, but Bairstow felt his performances over recent years justified selection in Kandy.
“It means a lot,” Bairstow told Sky Sports after the day’s play. “There’s different things you go through, when you get castigated for being injured when they don’t know what’s going on.
“I’m desperately proud. These last couple of weeks have been tough. People who don’t see the hard work and the graft that’s going on. I’m proud as punch of myself of everything that I’ve done for the last few weeks – because that injury could have set me out for eight weeks.
“If you look at the challenges that have been put in front of me as a cricketer. I’d like to hope I’ve come through them all. Two people I knew at home have passed away in the last couple of weeks, so it puts things in perspective. It just shows that we’re playing a game of cricket.”
Bairstow missed the first Test after injuring his ankle whilst playing football in a training session. Surrey wicketkeeper Ben Foakes performed admirably with the gloves during the first Test as well as recording a Test century on debut.
Foakes, who has featured behind the sticks in all three Tests, shows no signs of relinquishing the gloves any time soon, but Root said on the eve of the third Test that Bairstow’s chance at No.3 was “an opportunity for him to try and nail that spot down”.
The stylish batsman now looks set to be deployed at first drop in the Windies early next year as England try to settle on a top order ahead of the Ashes next summer, but facing the new ball in England will present a very different – and perhaps much sterner – challenge to the spin threat posed to him today.
Bairstow is far from convinced that he should give up the glovework and focus solely on his batting, however – he insists that he will keep fighting to be England’s first-choice ‘keeper. “I have worked hard for the last nine years,” he added. “I am not going to give up after two games you miss.”