Bulldog spirit, courage, fighting… all words the English press lavished on Jonny Bairstow after the first hundred by a visiting batter this Ashes series, that finally shone a light on this doomed campaign.
Bairstow’s brave unbeaten century, playing through the pain after being smashed on the thumb by a searing Pat Cummins delivery, was rightfully the main talking point for the travelling media after weeks of depressing commentary on England’s failed tour.
“Fighting for his Test career, smashed on the thumb by Pat Cummins and even abused for his weight by some beered-up Aussie supporters, Jonny Bairstow drew on huge reserves of courage and bulldog spirit to score the first hundred by England of this Ashes series,” exalted The Telegraph’s Nick Hoult.
“There will have been personal emotion too, for this Test started on the anniversary of his father’s death, and Bairstow looked to the heavens as he reached his century before raising his bat to the crowd – minus the three kicked out from the abusing him at the tea break as he walked through the pavilion.
“Bairstow and Ben Stokes rescued England from another horror show with a 128-run fifth-wicket stand, withstanding blows on the hands and body as Australia’s bowlers made life dangerous on a spiteful pitch.
“Bairstow has been mucked about by selectors, moved up and down the order, given the wicketkeeping gloves, had them taken away and was dropped for more than a year since his last hundred in Colombo in December 2018. It looked as though these days were over.
“He averaged 22 between that century and this one, and was playing for his career with an Ashes hammering always ushering in change, particularly where players of over 30 are concerned.
“But coming in at a crisis after another top-order calamity, Bairstow and Stokes took the fight to Australia for the first time in this series, and it even inspired Mark Wood to hook Cummins for three sixes as the tail finally wagged.”
The Daily Mail’s Lawrence Booth said it was a day at the SCG to gladden British hearts.
“A stirring century from Jonny Bairstow lifted English spirits after he and Ben Stokes launched a fightback from the depths of 36 for four,” wrote Booth.
“England were still a long way behind Australia’s 416 for eight, but it was the kind of counter-punch called for in advance by stand-in coach Graham Thorpe.
“After so much one-way traffic for so long, it was a pleasure simply to watch some kind of contest.”
Simon Wilde, in The Times, said, given the backdrop of friction inside the team and uncertainty over some players’ futures, Bairstow’s knock was superb.
“For Bairstow to play so well coming into the game on little more than a cameo performance at the MCG, and sessions against a much-reduced array of net bowlers due to the ravages of COVID, was an exceptional effort,” Wilde extolled.
“To score a century in these circumstances, with the dressing room full of recrimination and uncertainty about the future, was no mean feat.
“Bairstow might easily have retired hurt after taking a bone-jarring blow on the end of his right thumb from Pat Cummins, and his post-match comments suggested he ignored medical advice by carrying on.
“After that blow, he hooked Cameron Green for six and scored 43 from 49 balls, a gutsy effort.”
Former England great Michael Atherton said Bairstow had a point to prove out in the middle against the dominant Australian bowling attack.
“To celebrate this first hundred of the tour and the first time an England batsman had really put the opposition bowlers on the back foot was a lift they badly needed, after a dismal start in which the top order were demolished in a blistering pre-lunch session. England remain in arrears but it could have been so much worse,” Atherton gushed in The Times.
“Like Stuart Broad, he is often at his best when he has a point to prove and, although it has come a game later than he would have hoped, this was a statement from a cricketer who feels his Test career is not yet done.”
The Guardian’s Andy Bull praised Bairstow’s character to answer the call of his team in desperate need.
“There are all sorts of ways to talk about Bairstow’s innings, but he chose to frame it in terms of the character he showed, especially after, like Stokes, he was wounded by a vicious blow that did serious damage to his bottom hand,” Bull noted.
“There was a ringing clarity about the way Stokes and Bairstow played, what they wanted to do and how they planned to do it, which was at complete odds with the confusion that has dogged England’s Test team, and their own careers, for the past few years.
“England have still lost the Ashes. England are still losing this game. But they showed they’re still worth getting up for and gave a glimpse of how they might move forward, too.”
Writing in The Daily Mail, Paul Newman praised Bairstow for his efforts in reviving his Test career, despite being a key member of England’s white-ball sides.
“An emotional Jonny Bairstow hailed the toughest century of his career after England finally dug deep to take the fight to Australia,” Newman wrote.
“Bairstow, who has struggled in Test cricket since England took the wicketkeeping gloves away from him and gave them to Jos Buttler, reached his first Test hundred in three years in the last over of an eventful day.
“Bairstow insisted he had never given up on Test cricket even though he was fortunate to earn a place on this tour and only came into the side at the expense of Ollie Pope in the third Test at Melbourne.”
Ali Martin revelled in Bairstow’s “guttural” celebrations upon reaching his first Ashes century in Australia in The Guardian.
“Finally, the smattering of ex-pat England supporters among the crowd had something to savour too,” Martin wrote.
“It came moments before stumps – not quite Steve Waugh’s last-ball century here in 2003 but close enough – as Bairstow, on 99, stepped to leg and carved the fourth ball of Pat Cummins’ final over beyond backward point and to the rope.
“It was the seventh of his Test career, but also a first in three years of increasing frustration, and the Yorkshireman’s guttural roar in the direction of his teammates in the old pavilion was a moment of pure catharsis.”
Praise also came for the popular Mark Wood, too, whose brazen cameo of 39 from 41 balls, including three sixes, saw England’s tail finally wag.
The Telegraph’s Scyld Berry put Wood in the spirited company of lion-hearted fast bowling icons Harold Larwood and Darren Gough, and says he will never have to buy a drink in Australia again.
“Harold Larwood, Darren Gough, Mark Wood. He might be the least of these three, thus far in his career and at the age of 31, but it is a very distinguished trio that Wood has joined,” Berry observed.
“English cricketers come and go to Australia, most of them disappearing in the mists of mediocrity and self-effacement, but the names of Larwood, Gough and now Wood will live on for their spiritedness.
“They will live on as three England fast bowlers – express bowlers -– who have not only dished it out by pummelling Australia’s batsmen, but have also taken on the short stuff and dished it back.
“If he leads an England supporters tour for the Ashes series of 2041-42, he will not have to pay for a drink if he goes into a bar anywhere from Brisbane to Broome, because the folks inside will recognise Wood as the Pom who never gave up.”