Jonny's Ashes century a ton of emotion

15 December 2017
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All the background noise and anguish of Jonny Bairstow's tour to date evaporated when he brought up three figures on day two at the WACA

About the Writer:

Chris Stocks is a freelance cricket writer based in London. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian, Daily Mail, Independent and London Evening Standard.

The guttural roar, leap in the air, salute to the heavens and then that playful headbutt of the helmet not only marked England’s finest moment of this Magellan Ashes series so far but also the high watermark of Jonny Bairstow’s Test career to date.

A maiden Ashes hundred is a special moment for any player but for Bairstow it meant so much, coming as it did with his team fighting for their lives at 2-0 down in the series and after a tour that has collectively and, individually for the wicketkeeper, been torrid.

Bairstow’s ‘playful’ headbutt greeting to Australia opener Cameron Bancroft on the opening night of England’s tour in Perth’s Avenue bar on October 29 has proved the lightning rod for a deluge of off-field headlines that have hurt the tourists’ reputation badly.

Following on from Ben Stokes’ altercation outside a Bristol nightclub back in September that saw the allrounder left out of the Ashes touring party, the emergence of Bairstow’s tete-a-tete with Bancroft on the final day of the opening Test in Brisbane caused England to impose a midnight curfew on their players.

That was despite the fact all involved admitted there was no malice involved in the headbutt.

Emotional Bairstow salutes ton with headbutt

It proved embarrassing for England, though, and especially Bairstow, who since admitted he felt he had been “stitched up”.

Yet all that background noise and anguish evaporated the moment he hooked Mitchell Marsh for a single on the second morning of this third Test to bring up his fourth Test century.

"In many ways, it was my favourite hundred because to score an  Ashes hundred is something you dream about as a kid,” said Bairstow, who has achieved the feat in his fourth Ashes series. 

"It’s eluded me until now and it was a whole heap of emotions that came running through and it (the butt celebration) was a bit of light-hearted fun with everything that’s gone on. That’s exactly the way it should be taken.”

Asked to expand on the emotions he was experiencing when he reached three figures, Bairstow said: "It’s difficult, it all happens in that moment. It goes back a long time. As I alluded to, you want to make an Ashes hundred, you want to look back in the archives when you’re retired and say to your kids, grandkids, ‘I made an Ashes hundred away from home at the WACA’. It meant a huge amount."

This was only Bairstow’s second overseas Test century, following on from his maiden ton against South Africa at Cape Town in January 2016.

Quite why England waited until this third Ashes Test to move the 28-year-old up to six in the order is anybody’s guess. Since the start of 2016 he averages 49.66 across 27 Tests. Among England batsmen, that is only bettered only by Joe Root, the captain averaging a fractionally-higher 50.38 from the same number of matches. 

Bairstow blasts WACA ton to justify promotion

Bairstow’s salute to the heavens is a tribute to his late father David, who was also a wicketkeeper for Yorkshire and England. Tragically, he committed suicide 20 years ago when Jonny was aged just eight.

While Bairstow is not the most articulate of public speakers you couldn’t help but be touched by his answer when pressed to confirm whether that gesture in Perth was for his late father.

"Yes,” he confirmed. “Naturally you want people to be around and that’s just something that naturally happens.”

There have been suggestions that the on-field verbals directed towards Bairstow during this series have been close to crossing the line. Australia captain Steve Smith has denied that, but after the Brisbane Test did admit his players had “got into” Bairstow’s “head” during that match.

However, the sledging, media storm that followed the Bancroft incident and everything that has followed has served as motivation for the England man.

"Chat’s chat," said Bairstow. "I think it’s something that comes and goes. To be honest with you, you can say it gets into people’s heads but unless you’re inside someone’s head you don’t know whether it affects them or not. 

"In many ways it spurs people on, gees them up a bit and makes them even more determined to succeed. It’s the way in which you use that. Hopefully it’s a positive reaction I’ve given in this innings and hopefully moving forward to."

Bairstow joined Les Ames, Alan Knott, Jack Richards, Jack Russell and Matt Prior as England keepers who have scored a Test hundred in Australia.

Malan monsters mighty Ashes century

His 237-run stand with Dawid Malan was also England's highest fifth-wicket Ashes partnership and also the best for any wicket against Australia since Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott posted 329 at the Gabba in 2010.

Asked how he enjoyed the challenge of facing Australia’s quicks, Bairstow admitted: "It wasn’t fun. It was a badge of honour for Malan and I to spend a period of time out there and out on the partnership that we did together for a sustained period of time."

With this Test in the balance heading into day three at the WACA, it’s also a partnership that might just have kept England’s Ashes hopes alive.

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard

Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21