Jonny Bairstow ready for next test after ankle ‘held up really well’ in Ashes
Jonny Bairstow is relieved his left leg passed its first major stress-test in the Ashes as he prepares for a different challenge over the next few weeks.
A freak accident a year ago left Bairstow with three fractures, ligament damage and a dislocated ankle, with his surgeon comparing the subsequent operation to “putting Humpty Dumpty back together again”.
In order to facilitate his England return at the start of the summer, Bairstow ousted Ben Foakes as wicketkeeper and initially struggled to adjust to the full-time role after four years of not doing so.
He missed eight chances in the first three Tests and his movement appeared compromised on occasion, but a blinding catch at Emirates Old Trafford and a typically belligerent 99 not out was followed by Bairstow reminding everyone he was still feeling his way back in a spiky press conference last month.
And Bairstow ended his Test summer with a flourish following a dashing 78 and another excellent grab to accelerate England’s push for victory on the final day at the Kia Oval in a 2-2 drawn series.
“I feel good,” he said. “The ankle has held up really well, I’m delighted with how it’s held up. I’m delighted with how free I’m feeling at the moment.
“There’s naturally an unknown when you’re coming back from it. There’s times when you can turn or you can keep on it or twist on it or whatever.
“I don’t know what actually makes it flare up or if it does but it hasn’t done, so that’s a fantastic thing for me and gives me a huge amount of confidence going onwards.”
Bairstow is set to take some time off but will play in The Hundred before England face New Zealand and Ireland in September ahead of the start of their 50-over World Cup title defence in India in October.
With Jos Buttler donning the gloves in the white-ball sides, Bairstow is used as a boundary rider but the Yorkshireman hinted at a change as the role necessitates more running than being inside the ring.
“It’s one of those where in some ways you might have to be a bit clever with it,” Bairstow said.
“Do you actually need to do that when someone else can do that? Can I utilise my different skillset in the ring? I can go out there, absolutely, but it’s risk and reward and everything that goes with it.”
With such a packed schedule on the horizon, Bairstow has given no thought to England’s next Test assignment, when they will head to India in early 2024 for a five-match series.
The trip is on the radar of Zak Crawley, who was initially rumoured to be the player to make way for Bairstow in the Ashes but ended up being England’s leading run-scorer with 480 at an average of 53.33.
England were greeted with prodigiously turning tracks on their last visit to India and the expectation is they will have to come through another trial by spin – although Crawley is hopeful of some variety.
“Sometimes in India it seams and swings a bit and they’ve got unbelievable seamers as well so hopefully there are a couple of pitches there that are like that as well, that will suit us a bit more,” he said.
“I feel like we play spin really well as well, we’ll just have to adapt and see what we get. I don’t know if they’re going to be raggers (turning pitches) like Ahmedabad and Chennai, where we were last time.”
Crawley set the tone for England at the outset of the Ashes by crunching the first ball of the series off Pat Cummins for four, while his runs came at a remarkable 88.72 strike-rate.
He looked assured on the whole against Australia’s vaunted quicks, boosted by his display against them in Sydney in January 2022, when he made a classy 77 that he rated as his best innings until recently.
“Before this series, that was the best knock I’ve ever played so it gave me a lot of confidence that under the pressure of fast bowling, that could bring out the best in me,” he added.
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