WORLD OF CRICKET: Stokes and McCullum are right to back Bairstow

PAUL NEWMAN: Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum are RIGHT to back Jonny Bairstow and England will be rewarded for their faith in him

  • England’s decision to stick with Jonny Bairstow will prove to be the correct one 
  • Bairstow needs time after injury but he can justify the faith shown in him 

When I was helping Trevor Bayliss write his columns for Mail Sport during the last Ashes, his agent, who had to approve them before they were published, objected to him calling Jonny Bairstow sensitive.

‘Jonny might not like that,’ he said. Straight-talking Australian Bayliss responded: ‘Mate, if he doesn’t, it rather proves my point.’

So Bairstow might not like it now to say he will be hurting about his performances in this year’s Ashes, and the criticism they have drawn.

Certainly he did not like it when Jim Maxwell called him ‘overweight’ in these pages before the Lord’s Test. He is one of those players who might say he does not take any notice of the media but he is aware of everything that is written about him.

So, it is true that he is sensitive and in the past he could have been described as something of an outsider within the England team. Mainly because he was perceived as being a little bit different. Not now he isn’t. Now he is one of the most popular and highly valued members of this England side and has been brilliantly managed by Ben Stokes, who quickly understood that Bairstow just needed an arm round the shoulder.

Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum will be vindicated for sticking with Jonny Bairstow

So there was no chance of Stokes and Brendon McCullum dropping Bairstow, nor taking the gloves away from him and playing him in the specialist batting role that last year saw him spectacularly become the first face of Bazball.

Stokes and McCullum will back Bairstow for the rest of the series, and beyond, because they believe wholeheartedly in him both as a batsman and a wicketkeeper. Even though it is clear the blow to his confidence, after a string of dropped catches, has spread to his batting.

At the start of this Ashes I advocated picking both Bairstow and Foakes, and moving Stokes up to make room in the middle order for them.

It will take time for Bairstow to return to his best form but he will be able to get there

If England had done that, I believe they would have been 3-0 up in the series. But it is too late for that now.

England were clearly guilty of underestimating just how much that very serious leg injury took out of Bairstow — perhaps we all were — and it will take time for him to return to his best form. But he will get there.

The right decision has been made to back Bairstow and I believe he will reward that faith by making at least one major contribution in the remaining two Tests. It would be entirely typical of the man to prove his doubters wrong yet again.

Ageas Bowl has earned its Ashes moment 

Yes, of course it is controversial that Headingley and Old Trafford are not staging men’s Ashes Tests in 2027.

But it is only right that the Ageas Bowl has been allocated its first men’s Ashes Test match in four years’ time. Not only is it a purpose-built international stadium but Hampshire and their chairman, Rod Bransgrove, have earned this accolade.

It’s good the Ageas Bowl has been allocated its first men’s Ashes Test match in four years’ time

It was to the Ageas Bowl — along with Old Trafford — that the ECB turned when they desperately needed the Test show to go on by hosting West Indies and Pakistan during the pandemic in 2020, because of its on-site hotel.

I get the argument that it is wrong for no Tests to be in the north in 2027, but it is wrong to lump the Ageas Bowl in with Lord’s and the Oval when talking about the proliferation of southern venues for that series.

As Bransgrove says, Southampton is not exactly London-on-Sea and serves a completely different cricketing audience to Lord’s and the Oval.

England are blessed for wicketkeeper-batsmen 

Regarding wicketkeeper-batsmen, England are blessed in that position like never before. On top of Jonny Bairstow, Ben Foakes and Jos Buttler there is the hugely promising Jamie Smith, who could even leapfrog his Surrey team-mate Foakes as next in line for this England Test team.

Keep an eye, too, on the other Ollie Robinson who is making a huge impression at Durham after heading north from Kent at the start of this season.

Somerset’s 19-year-old James Rew has been impressive and is one to watch out for

But the best of the lot could turn out to be Somerset’s 19-year-old James Rew, who this week became the fourth-youngest batsman to score a double century in the County Championship when he made 221 against Hampshire at Taunton.

It was the fifth hundred of the season for Rew, who is now the leading runscorer in Division One with 952. He is a more than capable keeper, too. As they say, remember the name.

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