England’s tour of India is now three Tests old and a familiar pattern has taken shape.
Jonny Bairstow can’t wait for a masterclass from “the best all-rounder ever” – Jacques Kallis – as he bids to battle back into England’s Test team in Sri Lanka.
South Africa great Jacques Kallis has joined the England camp on their tour of Sri Lanka as a consultant coach and boasts one of the most glittering CVs ever put together in international cricket.
Not only does the 45-year-old sit third on the all-time Test runs table with 13,289, slotting in just behind Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting, but he also helped himself to 292 wickets and 200 catches in the format.
Kallis’ relentless ability to churn out scores in all conditions, including nine centuries in the No.3 position that Bairstow appears likely to be recalled to, makes him a perfect mentor for a man looking to re-establish himself in the side after a spell of limited-overs specialism.
Like Kallis, Bairstow has been asked to play many different roles for his country – with and without the wicketkeeping gloves, up and down the order and between all three formats.
“It’s absolutely brilliant. I think it is a fantastic addition, someone of Jacques’ calibre,” Bairstow said, greeting the appointment with wide-eyed enthusiasm.
“With the things he has done within the game, in my eyes he is the best all-rounder that there has ever been. Someone that batted at the top of the order, caught absolute flies at slip and got so many wickets as well.
“There are so many different aspects you could speak to him about. I am really intrigued to spend more time with him to gauge and understand the process he went about it. Because to string all three bits together so successfully, over such a long period of time, is a skill in itself.
Their time together has been brief so far, with Kallis only due to leave room-based quarantine on Friday following his arrival from South Africa.
That is also day one of an internal squad match in Hambantota, with a Joe Root XI and a Jos Buttler XI each pencilled in to bat for 50 overs before a second day of action on Saturday.
With England having thrown their support behind Buttler as first-choice gloveman and Ben Foakes involved as back-up, Bairstow has come to terms with the idea that his latest chance is due to come in the top order.
The 31-year-old has batted at number three in just six innings, though it has not escaped his or the selectors’ notice that the first of those came in Sri Lanka on the 2018 tour, where he responded to the challenge with bullish 110.
To date that remains the last of the Yorkshireman’s six Test tons.
“I don’t see why not. If that’s the case then bring it on,” he said of another chance in the vital slot.