Jonny Bairstow has been England’s most in-form batter this year. In fact, he is the leading run-getter in 2022 in Test cricket. Yet, the man who terrorised New Zealand, with two brutal hundreds, could hardly lay bat on ball as Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah put him through a trial by fire late on day two as he went back unbeaten on 12 off 47 balls to fight another day.
He would have hoped that a brighter forecast with the sun out on day three at Edgbaston on Sunday, would have made life a lot easier. But he didn’t find any favours from both Bumrah and Shami.
Shami was relentless with his line and cut Bairstow into half at least a dozen times. He also used the away-going delivery smartly to induce the false shot. He remained scoreless for 20 deliveries as all the talk of 'Bazball' went out of the window.
Then, Virat Kohli, standing at slip, made the mistake that Andrew Flintoff did in the World T20 match at Durban against India. Awaken a sleeping giant.
Flintoff’s angry exchange with Yuvraj Singh pumped him up to smash Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over. He should have also remembered what happened when someone from the England camp threw a few jellybeans on the pitch when Zaheer Khan walked into bat in the 2007 Trent Bridge Test. The left-arm seamer ran through England and bowled India to a famous win with an angry, incisive spell.
On Sunday, Kohli too made the mistake of poking the bear.
After the umpteenth play and miss off Shami, Kohli who was talking non-stop from the slips, yelled out to Bairstow, “a bit quicker than Southee, eh?”
Bairstow signalled to the umpires with his gloves that the former Indian captain is going overboard with the trash talk. Kohli walked up to him and asked him to “shut up, stand and bat” followed by a finger on the lips gesture.
Umpires Richard Kettleborough and Aleem Dar stepped in, as did England skipper Ben Stokes at the non-striker’s end.
A friendly punch on the shoulder from Kohli to Bairstow indicated all was well. Bairstow, though, was charged up.
From 13 not out off 61 balls, he suddenly said, “Right. I’m going to show you guys, especially Virat, what I’m made of.”
After another play and miss, Kohli pointed to Bairstow and laughed, almost ridiculing the batsman. Two balls later, a length ball was flayed over gully off Shami for three and that seemed to get him going.
A lofted drive over mid-off off Bumrah was the first statement of authority from the Yorkshireman who wears the jersey No.51 as a tribute to his late father David Bairstow, who was born in 1951.
Another aerial hit over mid-off against Shami was essayed and was followed by a quick look at Kohli from the corner of his eyes. This was needle at its best and the engine was getting warmed up. There was still steam coming out from his ears, but Bairstow did a good job of clearing the red mist.
Once Bumrah took himself off and the less threatening Mohammed Siraj started his spell, Bairstow started cashing in. Short arm pull over mid-wicket, a biff over cover, an outrageous flick from the stumps, a pick up over mid-on with a short back lift, an orthodox off-drive, a ramp over the slips off Shardul Thakur, a couple of swats into the mid-wicket stands.
The full repertoire was put on show.
Every aggressive shot was followed by a glance towards Kohli. The former India skipper, who had a lot to say early on, was as quiet as a church mouse.