Mitchell Starc expects to face a “super-strong” team in this summer’s Ashes as English players approach a critical decision-making juncture.
Jonny Bairstow fared decently in the T20 series against India.
His showing was decent enough that the selectors might persist with him at number-four for the T20 World Cup later this year, but not solid enough to cement his position.
The Englishman played a couple of match-winning hands in the first and third T20Is; however, he could not steer his team to a win in the fourth when England had the game under control, nor did he stick around with Dawid Malan in the decider, even though a victory was not entirely beyond reach.
But Bairstow relaunched his claim to be England’s first-choice number-four in the T20 World Cup convincingly.
Though the Yorkshire batsman’s knock of 52 against the Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday did not translate to a win, he played fluently and kept his team well on track to pull off a mammoth chase.
More importantly, Bairstow did not take much time to settle even as the SunRisers lost David Warner and Wriddhiman Saha in successive overs at the start.
Except for the top edge that went over the keeper off Andre Russell’s bowling, Bairstow struck every shot with total conviction. He began his spree of clean striking with a glorious inside-out shot for a six.
In Russell’s first over, which started with a four via a top edge, Bairstow cleared the midwicket fence with a crunch in the third ball and disdainfully pulled another through the same region along the ground in the second-last delivery.
In the following over, he pumped a straight drive off Pat Cummins’ delivery for a boundary and provided evidence of perfect timing when he cut Varun Chakravarthy for four runs, getting it past the point fielder.
The 31-year old crafted a ramp shot over the keeper’s head as Prasidh Krishna dug in short outside of off. He then reached his fifty in just 32 balls by punishing Varun, pulling a long-hop for a six over midwicket.
Cummins, one of the Englishman’s nemeses, returned and ended his potential game-changing knock when Bairstow tried to crash a short and wide delivery to Nitish Rana at backward point.
While he played a high-quality innings, it may not automatically mean that he has booked the number-four spot in England’s T20 line-up. It was an incredible exhibition of power-hitting put by the keeper-batsman; however, he needs to build upon this and not only do it consistently but also contribute to wins.
Bairstow is an established limited-overs player now, but England’s white-ball squad faces stiff competition for multiple positions from the outsiders.
The upcoming IPL fixtures could also see him shifted back to the opening spot if the existing opening pair of Warner and Saha does not deliver results consistently.
The Yorkshire cricketer also faces some level of competition with Kane Williamson, a highly reliable batsman capable of altering his game according to the situation. Thus, if a surface tends to assist spin more, the management might prefer Williamson.
Hence, it also demands flexibility from Bairstow and he needs to deliver a reasonably good performance in whichever position he plays.
But for now, the right-handed batsman should concentrate on offering his best effort at number-four since he has guaranteed himself that slot for at least some time now by slamming a half-century.