England’s Jonny Bairstow says his Test record shows he has nothing to prove in Sri Lanka

Jonny Bairstow says he is excited about his future in Test cricket and his statistics show he has nothing to prove ahead of a potential return to the England side for the series against Sri Lanka.

The 31-year-old Yorkshireman’s last Test came in South Africa in December 2019 but a combination of injuries and England’s rotation policy ahead of a year in which they are scheduled to play 17 Test matches, has given him another shot in red-ball cricket.

While he averaged just 18.55 in his last 10 Tests, Bairstow argued his record over his career shows he can succeed at the highest level and is comparable with former England wicketkeeper Matt Prior, who played a key role in the side that reached No 1 in the Test rankings in 2011.

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“I am really looking forward to it,” Bairstow said. “It’s an opportunity, it’s something I’m excited about and that’s how I’m looking at it. I do want to get back in the team, I have played a lot of cricket now and, of course, I want to be getting back into the Test side. There’s a lot of cricket coming up.

“I have played 70 Tests now and people keep saying ‘points to prove’ and this, that and the other. I have answered a lot of questions in the past and this is now a time for me to go in and enjoy a Test series and relish the opportunity.

“I genuinely think that my game is in the best place that it’s been.

“There have been periods where I have wanted to work on different bits and my technique’s changed – that’s fine, technique’s do change, they are ever evolving but I think the work that I have put into my game and the runs that I have got left in the tank over the next three, four, five years or however long it may be, I definitely believe that I can be a huge contributor to English cricket in the Test arena.

“I have proved it in the past. I think I’m 60 runs behind Matty Prior’s runs at this current moment, on pretty much exactly the same amount of innings; he averaged 40, I am averaging 35 because he had 20-odd not outs where I have only had seven.

“So if you actually do the numbers on it, I am still scoring, it’s just the not outs that are a bit different. I am content with where I am in my head at the moment, I am excited about what is still to come with my red-ball stuff and that’s a good place to be.”

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Given the make-up of the England squad, with Rory Burns, Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope all unavailable in Sri Lanka, Bairstow’s place in the XI for the first Test appears assured.

However, he is still not sure exactly where he might slot into the batting line-up. Although he believes he has the game to make an impact batting at No 3, where he scored a century in his most recent Test innings in Sri Lanka.

“I have batted in different places over a period of time, so wherever it is that I do bat – if I do get the nod – then hopefully I am well enough equipped to make the best of that opportunity,” he added.

“Last time I played in Sri Lanka I got a hundred batting at three. I think I have batted a few times at three and generally done all right there so look, if that is the case, then bring it on.

“It’s a great time to be playing cricket, although we have not got the fans, we are very fortunate to be doing what we are doing. To be able to go out there and bat at three would be great. In some ways it will be a good opportunity and there’s no better place to go out and score runs.”

Bairstow is also looking forward to working with South Africa legend Jacques Kallis, who has joined England as a batting consultant for the series in Sri Lanka.

“Absolutely brilliant. I think it’s a fantastic addition, someone of Jacques’ calibre.” Bairstow said. “The things that he’s done within the game, in my eyes he’s the best all-rounder that there’s ever been.

“Someone that batted at the top of the order, caught flies at slip and got so many wickets as well, there’s so many different aspects that you could speak to him about.

“I’m really intrigued to spend more time with him and just try to gauge and understand the process which he went about it because to strong all three bits together so successfully over such a long period of time is a skill in itself.

“It’s great to have Jacques and I’m really looking forward to spending time with him, listening to what he has to say and working with him.”

Kallis is currently isolating after arriving in Sri Lanka on a commercial flight from South Africa and is expected to join up with the squad for the first time on Friday, when England will begin their two-day intra-squad warm-up match.

Joe Root and Jos Buttler will captain the two sides and they are expected to bat 50 overs each on the first day with rain forecast for Saturday.

Team Root: Crawley, Bracey, Root, Lawrence, Foakes, Overton, Robinson, Leach, Wood, Anderson, Parkinson.

Team Buttler: Sibley, Pope, Bairstow, Buttler, Curran, Bess, Stone, Broad, Mahmood, Crane, Virdi.

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