Vithushan Ehantharajah writes on Jonny Bairstow, who was named the inaugural Wisden Trophy winner in the 2023 edition of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.

Jonny Bairstow reflects with pride on his twin centuries against India at Edgbaston – the first time in his career he had, as he puts it, “gone back to back”. He adds: “It’s something you prove to yourself you can do.”

He had already made four Test centuries in 2022 before the delayed fifth Test in July, two in successive innings in June against New  Zealand. He was in the form of his life, and the devastating nature of his batting spoke of freedom and comfort. “I was playing the way I did as a kid for Yorkshire: taking teams on, taking the pull on – and having the confidence to do it.”

Doing it against India was another matter. After they managed 416 in their first innings, Bairstow walked out with England 44 for three in reply – all to Jasprit Bumrah. They would end the second day on 84 for five, with Bairstow on 12 from 47 balls. “Bumrah was bowling an unbelievable spell,” he says. “If we had tried to go gung-ho, it would not have gone well. It was about sucking up that pressure, then putting it back on the opposition later.”

India knew they were on top, particularly Virat Kohli, who engaged Bairstow in a few words. “They ramped it up at the end of the day, because they knew it was their time. You had to dig in.” Bairstow channelled that aggression spectacularly next day, taking just 72 more balls to reach three figures, and helping England scrape to 284. Four wickets for Ben Stokes helped restrict India to 245 in their second innings, which meant England needed 378 – more than they had ever successfully chased down in the fourth. But, after three good pursuits against New Zealand, they were undaunted.

“There was nothing spoken about not trying to chase it down,” says Bairstow. “The whole ground felt like there could be something special.” Zak Crawley and Alex Lees began with a rapid stand of 107, before three wickets fell for two runs. Bairstow entered another situation in need of rescuing, this time with his childhood Yorkshire mate for company. “For Rooty and me, it was just like our academy days, with that knowledge of finishing games. We had done it together since we were kids.”

By stumps on the fourth day, England needed 119 more, with the fourth-wicket stand worth 150; both men were in the seventies. Root won the race to a hundred, but Bairstow followed soon after, greeted by huge cheers. Root struck the winning run, taking the partnership to 269 in 52.3 overs, but everyone knew this was Bairstow’s Test. He had made 220 runs for once out, and become the first England player to score two hundreds in a Test since Andrew Strauss, also against India, at Chennai in 2008-09.

“To win the game with Rooty was special,” he says. “Those are the things that stay with you during your career.”

The 2023 edition of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack is out now