Cow Corner

Should Bairstow be under pressure?

Cow Corner

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Jonny Bairstow's Test career is now three innings old and without a major score to its name, but Cow Corner was surprised to see calls for the youngster to be dropped.

When the 22-year-old came to the crease with the score at 300 for four, the match situation and the seemingly benign track looked tailor-made to give the Yorkshireman a chance to make his first meaningful Test runs.

Two balls later and he would have been disavowed of the idea.

The first ball Kemar Roach kept lower than Bairstow expected, and he dropped his hands almost straight into the ball.

Encouraged, Roach dug it in short, bowling a vicious throat ball which Bairstow scarcely fended off.

Suddenly, the question arose — did Bairstow have a problem with the short ball?
His first-class stats were flashed up on the television screen. They seemed healthy. "Ah," ahh-ed the commentators, "but are there many out-and-out pace merchants in the county game any more?"

As the debate continued, Bairstow flailed, eventually falling to Roach, getting a leading edge on a ball aimed at his hip and looping a catch to the man at mid on.

The chatter turned to chunter. If he could be worked out so comprehensively by the West Indies attack, what would happen if he was put up against South Africa later in the summer and the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel? In fact, what was he doing in the team in the first place? Wasn't he a wicketkeeper, rather than a batsman? What about James Taylor? What about Ravi Bopara? Even Eoin Morgan?

But while today's dismissal is one that understandably be scrutinised by both the selectors and future opponents alike, it's worth remembering that this is only his second Test match dismissal.

The days of passing judgement on players this quickly have been consigned to the past, and, as if by magic, England's results have gradually improved to the point where they are rated the best side in Test cricket.

When you get a call-up to the national team these days, you tend to get a series to stake your claim to a place. In fact, sometimes you are afforded an entire summer.

Roach is as quick as they come in the international game at the moment, and Ricky Ponting will vouch for how much trouble he can pose with his chin music. Perhaps Bairstow does not have a problem with the short ball — he may simply not yet have worked out a strategy against it, having not faced enough of it. His career to date suggest that he is a fast learner with plenty of character — so the selectors will give him a chance to prove that this dismissal was a speed bump on the road to a place in the middle order.

After all, character is what earned Bairstow his opportunity in the first place. Taylor, now at Nottinghamshire, has been discussed as a Test batsman for several years and is regarded as a supreme talent of the county circuit, despite his youth.

Bairstow leapt ahead of him by some nerveless limited-overs displays for England, including a 21-ball 41 on his debut to take England to victory in a difficult chase against India last summer. He may be able to keep wicket, but that is irrelevant here. The selectors believe he might just be one of the best six batsman in the country at present.

But there is a warning for Bairstow in all this. The selectors are often patient, but occasionally ruthless. Bopara knows that, having gone from three centuries in a row against the West Indies in 2009 to dropped midway through the following Ashes series. Samit Patel, debutant in Sri Lanka two Tests ago, has already been cast aside, and it is in effect Patel's position that Bairstow has filled.

Bairstow will surely get the nod for the third Test, and short of a combination of his own failure with the bat and the outrageous form of his rivals for the place, he should expect to start the first Test against South Africa.

But there's no value in questioning his position in the side in these early innings.
Further pressure and speculation is unproductive at this point, when the pressure a batsman puts himself under in these situations is daunting enough.

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