If there’s somebody you don’t want to rub up wrong way, it is Bairstow: Anderson

London:  Amidst England winning the rescheduled fifth Test against India by seven wickets at Edgbaston last week, the verbal exchange between Jonny Bairstow and Virat Kohli in the first innings, which fuelled the middle-order batter to make 106 in the first innings and follow it up with an unbeaten 114 in a remarkable chase of 378, has held centrestage.

Now, veteran England fast bowler James Anderson recalled the exchange of words between Kohli and Bairstow, saying one should avoid provoking the right-handed batter.

“Jonny was 80 not out and Virat had been going at him and sledging him a lot. I don’t know if you saw the strike-rate difference? His strike-rate was about 20 before Virat started sledging him and about 150 after.

“His first words back in the dressing room at lunch were: ‘When will they learn to shut it?’ If there’s somebody you don’t want to rub up the wrong way, it is Jonny Bairstow,” said Anderson on BBC Tailenders Podcast.

Since Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum took over as England’s captain and coach respectively in Test cricket, Bairstow has been a standout batter for England’s new, attacking approach of playing the game. He is currently the leading run-scorer in Test cricket this year, making 994 runs in eight matches at an average of 76.46, including six centuries and a fifty.

Bairstow revealed that McCullum called him up before the Tests against New Zealand in June that he would be batting at number five.

“Before we played New Zealand, there was chat about going to the IPL and not playing county cricket but Baz (McCullum) phoned me, said I was batting five in the Tests, to get my head around it and crack on.

“Baz also spoke to me a bit about imposing myself on the game — nothing technical. That can be tricky in red-ball cricket because you don’t want to look like you’re slogging. I had two nets before the first game so finding the balance was interesting. I played a shot-a-ball at Lord’s (scoring one and 16) which didn’t go down too well and then found the balance better at Trent Bridge (scoring 136).”

Bairstow also credited freedom and clarity from McCullum being the driving forces behind him slamming four centuries in his last five Test innings. “It’s the freedom we have now. We’re not in hotel rooms, bubbles, having to do Covid tests every day and we can do normal things like go to the shop, go for a beer, see your friends and family. All of those things accumulate together and obviously the excitement of working with Baz (McCullum) and the clarity he gave everyone.”


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