With ODI form still flying, batsman seeks permanent home at No. 4 for T20 World Cup, No. 3 for Ashes
Jonny Bairstow‘s “easy chemistry” with fellow opener Jason Roy was on show despite England’s heavy defeat to India in the first match of their ODI series in Pune on Tuesday – and Bairstow wants the chance to settle as comfortably elsewhere in the order for the T20 World Cup and the Ashes.
A 135-run partnership between Bairstow and Roy – their 12th century opening stand in ODIs – had England well on track to reach their target of 318 before a middle order sorely missing the resting Joe Root fell away to leave them short as they slumped to a 66-run defeat. Bairstow scored 94 off 66 balls and Roy 46 off 35 while no other England batsman passed 30.
With his position as ODI opener firmly established, Bairstow is keen to convince selectors to persist with him at No. 4 in T20Is, having been moved down to that spot in South Africa late last year, and at No. 3 in Tests, despite his struggles there earlier on this tour of Asia.
Bairstow was unbeaten in both of England’s victories during their 3-2 T20I series defeat to India with scores of 26* and 40*.
“I was happy in the T20s, the runs I scored in there batting at No. 4 and contributing, being there at the end in two of the games was really pleasing to me,” Bairstow said on Wednesday. “If you’re batting at No. 4, to be there in two of the games – if you take South Africa in, to be at the end at Newlands – and the end in two of these games here, I’m pretty happy with how that’s going.
“It’s a different role, but at the same time, it’s a good role to be in because you’ve got an opportunity to be there at the end, winning games.”
And while 28 runs from four Test innings in India – including three ducks – and, before that, scores of 47, 35*, 28 and 29 in two Tests in Sri Lanka have Bairstow’s designs on the No.3 spot for the Ashes at the end of this year looking less secure, he made made his case verbally to be given a chance during the English summer to make it his own.
“I’m very keen to do that,” he said. “People will have spoken about the last two Tests here but, prior to that in Sri Lanka, to score the runs and come in at three, and previously at three for England I’ve been pretty happy, so hopefully I do get more than four games there, because I’ve gone home in between and, and even with those lower scores in the last couple of Tests, average-wise, it was still okay.
“There wasn’t anyone in those last two games that exactly lit it up was there? Let’s be honest about it. So a pink-ball Test match at a new venue that nobody scored any runs at and then obviously the last game, I thought, an umpire’s call decision that didn’t necessarily go my way in the first innings, but to be honest with you, I’m happy with where my game’s at and how I’m striking the ball.
“I do hope that that is the case and I do get an opportunity to be batting at three going forward, because I do feel that my game’s in a good enough place and, having four games in the winter on the subcontinent, which is never going to be easy, full stop.
“But going back home in the summer to England and then moving forward with the experiences that I’ve had over in Australia, I think going to Australia with a wealth of experience, as we know when you’re entering a major tournament, gives you a better chance of having success over there. So yeah, that is something that I do want to do want to pursue and hopefully I am given the opportunity.”
Bairstow’s most pressing task, however, is to help England win their next ODI, also in Pune, on Friday to keep the three-match series alive.
He took the lead role in the first match, moving from 6 off 18 at the end of the fifth over to 28 off 24 by the end of sixth as he plundered 22 runs off debutant Prasidh Krishna, which he said was indicative of his understanding with Roy.
“It’s an easy chemistry,” Bairstow said. “There’s no great shakes to it. We speak about very simple things out in the middle and keep things very simple. It’s a very go with how the game pans out approach.
“It wasn’t a crash, bang, wallop start. People might think, ‘they’ve gone from ball one’, but in actual fact we hadn’t. There was probably three overs, four overs at the start where it was very much toned back and we went a different route. Understanding each other enough to know that and not putting pressure on each other to have to go after it because we’ve got complete trust in each others’ games in order to know that one over and you’ve caught it up.
“I think that runs throughout the side, but having that trust in each other’s games to just go right, let’s stay calm, stay relaxed and not pile pressure on each other is the important factor of it.”
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo