Jonny Bairstow: England centurion’s praise for ‘grinding’ middle order to spark recovery against West Indies

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Bairstow’s magnificent 109 not out helped England recover from 48-4 to close on 268-6 at the end of day one in the first Test against the West Indies; the Yorkshireman put on vital half-century stands with Ben Stokes, Ben Foakes and Chris Woakes too

Last Updated: 08/03/22 11:48pm

England’s Jonny Bairstow celebrates after his century against West Indies

Jonny Bairstow hailed England’s fortitude in the middle order as they recovered from 48-4 to close on 268-6 at the end of day one of the first Test against the West Indies.

The tourists lost four wickets before lunch after opting to bat first in Antigua, but Bairstow anchored the recovery with his eighth Test century, finishing the day unbeaten on 109.

The 32-year-old played a significant role in half-century partnerships with Ben Stokes (36), Ben Foakes (42) and Chris Woakes (24 not out) and was delighted to see them frustrate a West Indies bowling attack which had got stuck into England’s top order.

“To start the series like that is something you obviously want to do, so really pleased to score a hundred in the West Indies against them in the first Test match,” Bairstow told Sky Sports News.

“It’s part and parcel of the game that you may come in at tricky spots and it’s about staying out there for as long as you can and grinding. We come again tomorrow, and we grind again.

“I’ve played a fair amount of Test matches now so I’m delighted to start the year in this way and hopefully we can kick on again.”

Kemar Roach proved the bane of England’s batsmen early on with two wickets, while Jayden Seales and former captain Jason Holder picked up two apiece as well, although they toiled in the afternoon and evening sessions, and were unable to make a breakthrough in the closing stages after taking the second new ball as soon as it became available after the 80th over.

The top-order collapse brought back memories of England’s dismal Ashes tour over the winter which prompted what has been dubbed a reset of the Test team, but Bairstow dismissed any similarities and insisted there were no such concerns in the dressing room.

“It’s completely different – completely different surfaces, completely different attack, completely different ball,” Bairstow said.

“It was always going to be tacky from seeing the pitch yesterday and the day before, there were obviously some worries it was going to break up quite heavily and there was obviously some moisture in that wicket this morning.”

Atherton: England will be satisfied, but top order is fragile

Sky Sports cricket expert Mike Atherton was full of praise for Bairstow after he came to the fore with his second century in as many Tests. He scored 113 against Australia in Sydney in the final match of the winter’s Ashes series and an unbeaten 106 in the warm-up match for this game against the WICB XI.

“I think England will be satisfied at the end of it, given where they were at 48-4,” Atherton told Sky Sports News. “The top order collapsed, and things were looking very tricky for them at that stage.

“But as the day progressed firstly Bairstow and Stokes then Bairstow and Foakes, and at the centrepiece of it all Jonny Bairstow. I thought the tempo of his innings was excellent and he had to work hard in the initial stages, but he gradually accelerated through the day and played wonderfully.

“I think what he’s doing at the moment though is just grasping the opportunity. He was left out of the Ashes to start with for Ollie Pope, came back in for the Melbourne Test probably thinking ‘this is the final chance now’.

Joe Root looks on after being bowled by West Indies' Kemar Roach

Joe Root looks on after being bowled by West Indies’ Kemar Roach

“When you’ve played 80 Tests thereabouts, you’re probably not going to get too many more chances. He got his century at Sydney and played excellently there, got his 100 in the warm-up here and carried on in that vein today.”

Former England captain Atherton believes current skipper Joe Root made the right call to bat first after winning the toss even though the tourist lost those early wickets, but expressed his concerns around the fragility of the top order.

“It’s what we’ve seen from England over the last couple of years – the top order is fragile,” Atherton said. “Maybe it was a bit tacky at the start and there was a bit of movement in the air, but England are vulnerable.

“They’re a fragile top order; they’ve got an opener in Zak Crawley who’s got promise, but if you take out that 267 he hasn’t got a lot else and another guy, Alex Lees, who’s on debut.

“Root is playing in a new position at No 3 and Dan Lawrence is pretty new to Test cricket as well. Once you get Root early, which the West Indies did today, you fancy your chances with the top order.”

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