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Ashes: Jonny Bairstow ‘over the moon’ with ‘toughest’ England Test century: ‘It’s been a lot of hard work’

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  • Jonny Bairstow
    Jonny Bairstow
    English cricketer (born 1989)
  • Ben Stokes
    Ben Stokes
    Cricketer (born 1991)
  • Jos Buttler
    Jos Buttler
    English cricketer
  • Pat Cummins
    Pat Cummins
    Australian cricketer

Jonny Bairstow admitted to being “over the moon” with the “hardest” of his seven Test centuries, but is one of three senior players under a cloud as England face an injury crisis for the final Ashes Test in Hobart.

Ben Stokes (side) and Jos Buttler (hand) both batted through injuries picked up on the second day, but England are bracing themselves to be without both for the Fifth Test, a day-nighter at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval beginning on January 14.

Bairstow joined England's walking wounded when hit hard on the thumb by Pat Cummins on 60. In the final over of an eventful day that saw him rescue England from 36 for four at lunch, Bairstow guided Cummins through backward point to reach the tourists’ first century of a dismal trip.

“I’m over the moon,” said Bairstow. “It was my hardest one so far I think under the circumstances. We put the graft in, that partnership with Ben [worth 128] was a big one. It was tough out there and I’m really delighted with it. I’m very proud, it’s been a lot of hard work.”

Bairstow said he had never given up hope of making another Test hundred despite it being his first since 2018, since when he has not always been a regular.

“No, I didn’t think that because of the hard work I’ve kept on putting in,” he said. “I felt I have the ability to do it. That’s exactly why you keep playing, keep pushing, keep turning up every game to practice, turning up to each game putting your best foot forward. As soon as that goes, you’re not around.

“It’s not been easy. There have been a lot of things over the last couple of years with Covid, travelling, bubbles and everything like that. You know how much this means to me.”

Stokes battled hard to make 66 despite having a suspected side strain, which is yet to have any formal assessment. It seems certain that he will not bowl again in the series and there is major concern that any further batting – he played some aggressive strokes today – would worsen the issue.

Buttler has had a scan on a left index finger injury – picked up in the field on Thursday – that is likely to prevent him keeping in Australia’s second innings here, and end his tour. Buttler was dismissed tamely for a duck, England’s second of the day, but was struggling to grip the bat.

Jonny Bairstow celebrates his first England Test century since 2018 at the SCG on Friday (Getty Images)
Jonny Bairstow celebrates his first England Test century since 2018 at the SCG on Friday (Getty Images)

Ollie Pope, who was dropped for Bairstow in Melbourne last week, spent time this afternoon practicing his wicketkeeping in readiness to come on as a substitute in the second innings.

As a result, England have added Sam Billings to their squad as cover. He has been in Australia playing in the Big Bash League and was due to return home today to the UK to prepare for the T20 tour of the West Indies later this month.

England have decided to keep him in Australia. He was tonight driving from Queensland – where he played his final game for Thunder last night – to Sydney in order to enter England’s bubble, subject to a negative PCR test.

Other BBL players such as James Vince have already flown back to the UK in preparation for the West Indies tour, and spare batters Rory Burns, Dan Lawrence and Pope should mean they have enough cover if all three of Buttler, Stokes and Bairstow are ruled out. The likes of Ben Duckett remains a capped option from the BBL, or Sam Robson and Mark Stoneman in grade cricket, if required.

Billings has been a regular member of both white-ball squads for almost seven years, but is yet to play Test cricket. This summer, he was twice called up as a reserve, at Lord’s and the Oval. There is every chance that he makes his Test debut in a much-changed England side in the Bellerive Oval day-nighter.

Ben Foakes would have been ahead of Billings in the queue as a keeper-batter, but he returned to the UK before Christmas with the rest of the England Lions squad.

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