You can never write off Jonny Bairstow. Not when he arrives at the crease at 36/4, not when his thumb is nearly blown off by Pat Cummins, and certainly not in an Ashes Test down under.
The England batter carved the ball behind point to bring up his seventh Test century in the final over of day 3 with the SCG drenched in evening sunshine and the cheers of the Sydney Barmies ringing around the ground.
It was a special moment, the high point of a difficult series for the tourists, made all the more special for Bairstow as it came in the New Year’s Test and in a match that began on the anniversary of his father’s death.
The Yorkshireman has always been a player that feeds off emotion and wears his heart on his sleeve, so it was easy to see just how much this one meant to him.
— Jane McGrath’s Barmy Army (@TheBarmyArmy) January 7, 2022
He didn’t mince his words when speaking to David Gower on BT Sport after the day’s play either.
“(It felt) unbelievable,” said Bairstow. “Absolutely unbelievable. I was ecstatic, extremely proud. There is a lot of hard work gone into that one.”
After all, by his own admittance, the past few years have not been an easy period for Jonny.
“It’s been tough. You’ve got to dig deep, you really have,” the England centurion explained.
“I’m sure you guys and everyone else will have mentioned the scheduling and how much red-ball cricket people are playing heading into massive series like this.”
Bairstow added: “You’ve got to delve very, very deep into things you’ve worked hard on for a number of years.”
Left out of the team for the first two Tests of the series, the right-hander showed glimpses of his quality in the 35 he made in the first innings at the MCG but day 3 in Sydney was vintage stuff from the Yorkshireman.
He arrived at the crease following the departure of the skipper and with England 36/4 but alongside Ben Stokes, who made an impressive 66, he helped shore things up before taking the attack to the Australian bowlers – something the tourists will have hoped to have done more of this series.
A gritty start, with his trademark quick rotation of strike, soon transitioned into an innings played on the front foot. He dominated Nathan Lyon, sweeping magnificently and sending the ball into the stands on multiple occasions.
The Aussie seamers were his next victim as the 32-year-old forced them off their line and then dispatched them as well.
First Stokesy, then free-swinging Mark Wood, and finally stoic Jack Leach kept him company in the middle as he closed in on his seventh Test century.
It would require more of the typical defiance with which so many of his innings have been played over the years as on 60, Bairstow took a nasty blow to the thumb from Cummins.
Even that could not halt his progress, however, as the Yorkshireman took just 48 more balls to score the 40 runs needed to reach three figures.
“It was hurting,” said Bairstow of his thumb at stumps. “But look you’re playing in a New Year’s Test match in Sydney, on the pink day. It’s going to take a heck of a lot to get you off the field, let’s put it that way.
“In some ways, you could say it frees you up, in some ways it doesn’t. But at the end of the day, you’ve got a job to do.
“Yeah, it is sore. Yes, it will be sore. But at the end of you’re playing cricket for England and I’m very, very proud to do that.”
The Ashes tour in Australia hasn’t played out how any England fan will have hoped but with Bairstow returning tomorrow on the back of a stunning century and with Australia’s first innings score in his sights (they lead by 158 as things stand), things appear a whole lot brighter.