Jonny Bairstow says that England must begin the process of winning back the trust of their fans at the WACA next week, as they seek to put to one side the off-field controversies that have over-shadowed their tour of Australia.
England have to avoid slumping to what would be their eighth consecutive Test defeat in Australia if they are to retain the Ashes, but their attempts to refocus in the wake of last week’s second Test in Adelaide took a blow on their return to Perth, when the England Lions batsman, Ben Duckett, was suspended from the remainder of the tour after pouring a drink over James Anderson in a bar in Perth.
That incident took place at The Avenue, the same venue at which Bairstow greeted Cameron Bancroft with a “head-butt” on England’s first night in Australia, leading an exasperated head coach, Trevor Bayliss, to threaten to drop any players who continue to step out of line.
Though Bairstow did not directly address the Avenue incidents, nor the nature of the sledging that he was subjected to during the first two Tests at Brisbane and Adelaide, he acknowledged that England have reached a watershed moment of the Ashes tour.
“I think it has all been dealt with, and we need to move on from that,” Bairstow said. “As players we get back into training tomorrow and that is at the forefront of our mind. We’ve got three matches to go and we’ve got to win three Test matches. That is the challenge we’re faced with.
“There are things that have been blown up, but at the same time it is your job. If we don’t play cricket well, then we lose our jobs.
“That is part and parcel of it, and we need to rebuild the trust we had built over the last few years as a team. That starts on Thursday morning.
“You rebuild it by winning games of cricket. You’ve got to go out and win games and that starts at training and then in the Test.”
There could be few more daunting venues for England to begin their Ashes fightback, however. In the 47-year history of the WACA, England have won just once, against a Packer-weakened Australia in 1978-79, while they have lost each of their last seven Tests at the venue, dating back to 1990-91.
“We’re 2-0 down and it is a situation you don’t want to be in,” he said. “At the same time we’re not completely out of it, we’ve got three opportunities to go and do something special.
“South Africa won at the WACA last year. They’ve won there the last two times, so there is no reason why we can’t.
“As a side we’ve played some good cricket so far in the series but not done it for long enough,” he added.
“They’ve won the key periods of play. The guys have spent time in the middle but not spent long enough. That is effectively what we need to do. We need to be out there for 110, 120, 130 overs and, at this moment in time, we’ve not done it.
“We were in a position to win that game [at Adelaide] on the last day. Going into the fifth day there was a genuine belief we could win that Test match and we could be sat here at 1-1.
“We need to bat longer than we’ve batted and we need to get their bowlers into fourth spells. It is as simple as that. Bat for a longer period of time than we have done.
“We’ve been in, but we need to bat longer as a unit. It doesn’t just affect that innings or that game.”
Despite a top score of 42 in the series to date, Bairstow has looked as fluent as any of England’s batsmen, leading to suggestions that he might be promoted from his current No.7 position, not least – as a right-hander – to counter the threat posed by the offspinner, Nathan Lyon. The man himself, however, did not think this was on the cards.
“I’ve got no idea. I don’t think so,” he said. “I’ve not heard anything. I don’t think that is an issue to be honest. The side that walks out on Thursday has to be the side that Joe [Root] is happy with and confident with, in whichever order it is he and Trevor think puts us in the best shape to win the Test.”
Jonny Bairstow was speaking on behalf of Yorkshire Tea and Chance to Shine, inspiring the next generation of cricketers