Future in good hands as assured Bairstow makes presence felt
Yorkshireman shows shades of Pietersen before his brilliant run-out leaves West Indies staring inevitable defeat in the face
Sunday 20 May 2012
As the crowd was filling the stands, the sun was shining. It augured well for England, who were already 16 runs ahead with seven wickets standing, in a position to build a formidable first-innings lead. But when play began at 11am, as if on cue, the sun surrendered to the cloud. Here was yet another grey day, and it was soon clear that there was to be no greater glory for Andrew Strauss, who added only two runs in 15 more minutes at the crease before delivering a thin edge to the keeper.
Maybe it was the warmth and the presence of the cloud cover, but something had happened overnight. The ball was moving off the seam, unlike Friday, when a straight delivery stayed straight.
The mood changed too. West Indies, who had been down in the dumps for two days, had begun to fight back. In two hours before lunch they took four wickets; England, having added only 82 runs, were still fewer than 100 runs ahead with only three wickets remaining. This was beginning to look like a decent cricket match.
Before the breakthrough, however, they had to deal with Jonny Bairstow. Making his debut, he was batting at No 6, in place of the injured Ravi Bopara. who was all promise as he scored 143 when West Indies were last at Lord's in 2009. Bairstow is capable of turning Bopara into yesterday's man. He is a 22-year-old with a family name to live up to – his father, David, played with distinction for Yorkshire and four times for England.
The chance of play for the England Test team came earlier than he must have hoped, but Bairstow immediately looked the part yesterday. He is unhurried at the crease. His stance is wide, he stands upright with a high backlift before sinking into a crouch as the bowler approaches. The stance aids the movement of his feet.
Bairstow is not unlike Kevin Pietersen in some ways, such as the charge down the wicket to get off the mark with a tight single.
His first boundary was a confident clip square of the wicket. When he had hit a couple more he was catching up with Ian Bell, whose innings had begun on Friday night. He had played and missed movement off the seam but the innings was looking promising when Kemar Roach bowled him with a beauty, the turn from the off accentuated by the slope. After 27 balls, Bairstow's debut ended on 16. It was disappointing, but he had showed that he can do better.
He is a good candidate for a decade at No 6. And, as he was to demonstrate later, he is a stunning fielder, claiming the third West Indian wicket with a direct throw swooping in from cover.
England proceeded to lose three more wickets before and soon after lunch. Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad each fell to balls that moved perceptibly, and with eight wickets down, England were still one run short of a 100 lead.
Yet West Indies are unaccustomed to good days at the office, and this one began to fall apart when Graeme Swann joined Ian Bell, who owed England a sturdy innings. (His average in his previous eight innings for England is just over 17.) Bell was circumspect; Swann was characteristically bold.
The complexion of the game changed in the 43 minutes Swann was batting. He hit six boundaries in 25 balls. In six overs after lunch, he and Bell put on 46 runs, and when Swann was out bowled by Shannon Gabriel for 30, the England lead had blossomed to 154. One more run from Bell and the lead settled on 155, with Bell last out for 61 in an innings that lasted193 minutes.
The last two wickets had been taken by Gabriel, making his West Indies debut and finishing with 3 for 60 in 21.4 overs, by far the best figures in the four-man seam attack. Gabriel is a striking figure, tall, strong, with a classical fast bowler's action. He is also recognisable by his swanky boots, coloured white and orange.
The wisdom among the experts was that the game would be over before the day was out.
Adrian Barath and Kieran Powell survived a torrid work-over from James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Barach just regained his crease when Pietersen scored a direct hit at the bowler's end, and the first wicket did not fall until Bresnan moved the ball sharply away from Barath, who edged to Prior. Powell played a daft shot after all his application and was caught at midwicket before Kirk Edwards was the victim of Bairstow's remarkable direct throw.
By the time Swann came on and bowled Darren Bravo for 21, only Chanderpaul stood between England and a quick victory. West Indies had had their moments but, in the end, all they had achieved was to take this Test into a fourth day before England's inevitable victory.
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