Ashes 2013: There’s plenty to admire but jury is still out on Jonny Bairstow

England’s No 6 showed some glimpses but questions remain over his ability at top level

Was it the dismissal of a Test-class middle-order batsman? Jonny Bairstow pushed away from his body with hard hands, as the ball spun off the pitch, away from him, clipping the outside edge of his bat. Brad Haddin took the catch and that was that.

It was not a bad innings; a watchful, almost monkishly self-denying 62-ball 15. Bairstow, coming in after the removal of Alastair Cook (also by Ashton Agar) provided a willing partner for Ian Bell as England tried to recover from their two morning losses. Had he got himself out attacking – as Kevin Pietersen did before him and Matt Prior subsequently – he would certainly have been castigated in a way that they will not be.

But Bairstow did not do precisely what he needed to, what he has not quite fully done yet, which is to make it unambiguously clear to everyone that this is his stage and he fully belongs here.

This afternoon went the same way as most of Bairstow’s 15 Test innings of his career so far: some promise and a lot to admire but not obviously bestowed with the technical class that is a prerequisite at this level. The first innings at Trent Bridge was much the same. Bairstow, in fact, was England’s second-top scorer with a far more characteristically punchy 37, off 51 balls with seven fours.

He was re-building well on that first afternoon with Stuart Broad before he was interrupted by another technical flaw. Bairstow’s bottom-handed, closed-face style lends itself to his playing across the line and missing straight deliveries, as Mitchell Starc found out to his delight.

This was not a new discovery. Three times before in his year-long Test career he had been dismissed the same way – by Tino Best, Morne Morkel and Tim Southee. It points to a pattern, and not a secret one either.

As is the case for most young players, Bairstow relies on much faith and trust from the selectors. His record does not yet make a compelling case for his inclusion. After 15 Test innings there remains one piece of stand-out quality – a gutsy and defiant 95 at Lord’s against South Africa. Beyond that, there was a competent counterpart act at Headingley in May, as he and Joe Root put on a stirring 124 against New Zealand.

But none of it makes fully clear that Bairstow – who can no longer claim to be a fully unknown quantity – is good enough to be here for the foreseeable future. England are currently committed to this new Ashes batting order, with Joe Root moving up to open and Bairstow coming in at six.

But if, a few Tests down the line, Bairstow has still not yet convinced then England will have to find yet another answer to the post-Paul Collingwood No 6 conundrum. Since his retirement after the last Ashes series, England have tried Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Ravi Bopara, Samit Patel and James Taylor there.

None of those had the desired effect, despite the success of Morgan and Bopara in short forms of the game. Taylor, who could claim to be the bright young future of English batting before Root or Bairstow, might be entitled to wonder about the distribution of chances to youngsters, his own example making clear that England are very capable of being ruthless with those they do not believe are at the required standard.

Perhaps the treatment of Taylor demonstrates that England will not give an indefinite number of chances to even promising youngsters. If they decide that Bairstow’s strength of personality does not outweigh his mixed technique, then they have to go through the whole search again. Bringing back the last custodian, Root, is surely implausible given the commitment to having him open with Cook. So England would have to look back, presumably to Bopara or Taylor, as they wonder who might be the eventual long-term replacement for Collingwood.

Batting orders are delicate balances and not everyone who should fit does. In the last home Ashes, the decision to try Jonathan Trott at three at The Oval turned out to be one of the best of recent years. Of the youngsters to be recently quickly promoted, Root is already rewarding the trust in all three forms.

But Bairstow’s future remains unclear and at Lord’s and Old Trafford he may have to exceed what he has shown so far if he is to continue.

Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Sport
football
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk