Jonny Bairstow said it would have been nice if the supporters who were thrown out for abusing him at tea had still been there at stumps when he walked off the field basking in the afterglow of his toughest Test century to date.
The 32-year-old lit up the third day in Sydney with an unbeaten 103 that, along with a bristling 66 from Ben Stokes, took England to 258 for seven, avoided the follow-on and raised hopes of the tourists preventing a series whitewash at 3-0 down.
As well as gritting his teeth after a nasty blow to the thumb from Pat Cummins, Bairstow also blocked out comments from one rowdy supporter in the member’s stand who shouted: “Take your jumper off Bairstow, lose some weight Bairstow, you’re fat.”
Bairstow fired back with “Pal, that’s right just turn around and walk away,” before his abuser and two others were ejected. Ultimately, the best riposte came through his work out in the middle, cracking eight fours and three sixes to deliver the first century of England’s sorry tour and his seventh in Test cricket.
“I’m over the moon to be honest,” said Bairstow. “That was the hardest one so far I think, under the circumstances. We put the graft in, that partnership [of 128 runs] with Ben Stokes was a big one. It was tough out there and I’m really delighted with it.”
Asked about his earlier exchange of verbals with the fan, Bairstow replied: “It was a bit of bad-mouthing. It’s not needed. We’re out there trying to do our jobs, people are there enjoying the cricket. Unfortunately, sometimes people overstep the mark.
“I think it is important to stand up for ourselves because if we are not standing up for ourselves, you can cop it. When people overstep the mark, they need to be told. It would have been nice if they had been there giving it when we walked off at the end. Unfortunately, they weren’t and they missed the end of a fantastic day’s Test cricket.”
Bairstow’s thumb problem follows Jos Buttler injuring his left index finger in the field on day two. With Stokes suffering from a side strain, Sam Billings has been drafted in from the Big Bash League to bolster the squad and could be set for a Test debut if neither Buttler not Bairstow are fit to keep wicket in the day-night finale in Hobart.
Billings, who was due to play in the T20 series in the Caribbean that starts later this month, has now begun an isolation period at the team hotel. And on the third day Ollie Pope was undergoing wicket-keeping drills in the nets in anticipation of being required to come on as a substitute gloveman when Australia’s second innings gets under way.
Asked about his own injury, one of a number of similar blows to England’s batters as the Sydney pitch played tricks, Bairstow replied: “It takes quite a bit to get me off the park. Yes, it was sore but the circumstances of the game, it was one of those where it was a decision I made to stay out there.
“The medics can give you advice but you’re playing in an Ashes Test match, a New Year’s Day Pink Test match at Sydney in front of a big crowd. It’s going to take a lot to get you away from that.”