The "dog-thrower" Graham Gooch uses to drill England batsmen has become a regular feature of the team's net sessions, and if Jonny Bairstow keeps his place for the next Test at Edgbaston, he will surely become very familiar with it.
Bairstow is a player of much promise and England believe he has the talent and attitude to succeed in Tests. The 22-year-old might prove his supporters right, but first he must work hard to sharpen his technique against the short ball.
During a three-year first-class career for Yorkshire, Bairstow has shone as much for the strength of his mind as he has for the quality of his strokes. He has acquired a reputation for scoring runs for his county in difficult moments; rarely will Bairstow have experienced a cricketing challenge as exacting as this.
He will have faced spells of fast bowling in county cricket, but perhaps not the combination of sustained accuracy and menace that West Indies' Kemar Roach found with the second new ball.
It took only one delivery for Roach to realise that Bairstow was uneasy. The batsman misread the length and took a blow on the gloves. Bairstow's second ball caused even more alarm as it rose towards his throat at close to 90mph.
His defence was inadequate and, although the ball dropped safely, news of Bairstow's vulnerability will have been passed on to the South African pair Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, who arrive for three Tests later in the summer. With his thoughts jumbled against Roach, Bairstow was then too early on a shot and the leading edge looped to mid-on.
"We know that he doesn't like the short deliveries," said Ravi Rampaul. "It's in our plan, Kemar Roach is our fastest bowler and he executed it well. Information travels fast. We had a chance to bowl at him when we played the England Lions, and we picked it up in that game."
Bairstow should now have extended sessions against the bowling machine and batting coach Gooch's side-arm. It is the first significant problem Bairstow has faced during his nascent international career, and his involvement in the South Africa series will probably be determined by how quickly he can uncover a solution. Tim Bresnan, a team-mate at county level, believes his younger colleague will find the right answers.
"Whenever I've seen him play for Yorkshire, he seems to whack the short ball out of the park," said Bresnan. "The opposition pace bowlers will come at you hard for the first four or five overs of their innings, which they are entitled to do.
"When he came in, there were two men back on the hook behind square, so it wouldn't have been the smartest move for him to smack the ball down deep square-leg's throat. He doesn't seem to be worried about the situation, and I'm certainly not worried for him."
The hounding of Bairstow was one of the highlights of a mature bowling performance from the tourists, which was then virtually ruined by their supine batting. On an excellent pitch, West Indies restricted England to a lead of just 58, but they will resume today 61 for 6 and the home side are strong favourites to take the three-match series with a game to spare.
"It's not easy to bowl more than 120 overs and then watch your batsmen not applying themselves and losing wickets," admitted Rampaul. "I don't fault them but it's frustrating. We need to focus more and apply ourselves more."
- More about:
- Caribbean Islands (west Indies)
- County Cricket
- Derby County
- Gloves And Mittens
- South Africa