A well-known joke from the press conference is that when the England men’s Test team is having a bad day, a coach is sent out to take the heat. And for all the eye-roll in the massive number of support staff employed by the ECB, almost all of them have had screen-time over the years, well ahead of the red-and-white-ball schedule.
“Fancy doing another Trent Bridge?” Bairstow joked with Stokes when he reached 21 for four. He kept his side of the deal, with a clean strike in just 95 balls to reach the century that, who come to think of it, couldn’t be more different than the one he hoisted that final season in Nottingham. could. There were no sixes (yet), yet most of his 21 fours still achieved the same hooting and hollering.
The real hatred came when he had crossed fifty for the 32nd time. Wagner opted to switch from full length, with whom he has toured around the world. With the men on the leg side, Bairstow moved a “change-up” fuller delivery to the left-hander’s head for 77 for four.
By then Overton had developed into the sidekick role played by Stokes at Trent Bridge, scoring four runs from a Wagner bumper in front of the square and breaking a pull shot to score his first half-century. Then came a six at the Western Terrace, followed by a drive down the ground, then a slap through cover: Wagner’s ninth over came with 14 runs, and he was left very disappointed. Wagner should have pushed for review for an early leg-before outcry against Overton, which would have reduced England to 63 for seven. He also missed a tricky catch-and-bowl that would have sent Bairstow packing on 27. And compounding all this was the fact that his famous short-ball move was not only failing, but was being used against him.
Who knows how this phase would have passed if Wagner, 36, had not come to this test cold? Somehow, he found himself in the eye of an 11-over storm, which began after a maiden in the 26th over, conceding 89 runs. The riot continued, and reached fever pitch when a crisp on-drive took Bairstow to three points.
There is still a shortfall of 65 to be worked on, and three more days left for a lot of twists and turns before this series finale. But on the second day of this final showdown, the first step towards getting the people in your favor was felt. Bairstow mentioned this in his press conference, “Our job is to inspire the next generation, our job is to get people to watch cricket, our job is to push the seats here and I think people probably wanted to see the brand. We are playing cricket.
Monroe, this time, was held back. But in a past life her words come to mind: imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it is better to be absolutely boring than to be absolutely boring. This seems particularly relevant to the Test side. At a different time, it could be relevant to Bairstow.
But for so long trying to fit into the format by curbing enthusiasm, adjusting footwork and adjusting his hands, losing his personality, he has never been more than himself. And in an imperfect team trying not to be boring, he’s at his most exciting while being the perfect fit.
ESPNcricinfo. Vithushan Ehanthraja is a Sportswriter for