Ravi Bopara, having finally secured his spot at six in the English Test line up, tore his quad muscle batting against Kent in the County Championship and was ruled unfit. The English selectors, with their Young Lions in the process of beating the tourists, have sprung a surprise is selecting Jonny Bairstow, a batsman/wicketkeeper, to occupy the number six spot. Bairstow, the son of a former captain of Yorkshire, is a fine player but could consider himself lucky to have beaten his Lions captain James Taylor into the spot. Bairstow made a good fifty as the Lions struggled after early setbacks but Taylor, in at 3-92, was last man out at 341 after scoring a really fine hundred.
The back story for Bairstow is one he dismisses quickly. A blood redhead as was his old man, he will forever live with his father's suicide. Much effort is made to find reasons why otherwise capable men take their own life and so it was with David Bairstow, who took an overdose three days before hanging himself. Jonny was 8 when "a family member" found his dad in the family home. It doesn't matter. It doesn't change anything. All we can be sure of is that the poor bugger was in so much pain that he saw death as the only way to make it stop. Those bar room boofheads who like to allege suicide is a selfish act or a sign of weakness should hope they never face the choice. Its neither. Bear in mind, these men are from Yorkshire and come no tougher. That's at least part of the problem. They are unable to forgive themselves. A half brother, Andy was the same age then as Jonny is now and was knocking on the door of first team cricket but apart from a short spell with Derbyshire, his career never lifted beyond second teams.
Jonny's dismissal of these events is a practised one. When asked at a press conference earlier in the week about being the 13th English son to follow his father into Test cricket, he shrugged of suggestions of any triskaidekaphobic reaction. Yorkies don't put store in such things. Life is hard work and winning comes against all the bastards that try to beat you down. He was asked what he'd be thinking about when he goes out to bat. "Booger at other end trying to get me out!" was his appropriate and well balanced response. He has nothing to fear on the cricket field but the same genetic inheritance which has won him three lions on his barrel chest also hides demons in waiting which are more easily managed in subsequent generations who are armed by their parent's sacrifices.
|Geoff Boycott played a pivotal role|
Bairstow will England's only change, with Steve Finn and Graeme Onions to be excluded from the thirteen man squad. It's a team which bristles with experience now, with only Jonothan Trott and Tim Bresnan having played less than 40 Tests.
The tourists have had a poor build up, as usual with the modern tour. Two first class matches can't possibly prepare a Test squad for a series against a home team where players have at least five games at county level available to them but the West Indies don't have the international performances behind them to insist on a more helpful program. The first game against Sussex at Hove was washed out after 34 overs and the second resulted in a ten wicket loss to the best of young England. At least the batsmen got two innings but it leads the Windies into the series opener with a top three in which only Keiran Powell has runs under his belt. Darren Bravo has looked as good as we know he is but the West Indies have some thinking to do about the middle order and perhaps the even bigger question, of whether to play Shane Shillingford or go with four quicks on a pitch which traditionally gives them succour.
|Narsingh Deonarine late arrival|
How will the series pan out? West Indies at their best will trouble the Englishmen but finding their best under these conditions will be a master stroke if Sammy can pull it off. Kirk Edwards needs to score heavily and dull the danger than James Anderson and Stuart Broad pose. Shiv Chanderpaul will drop anchor in the middle order and even Swann will do well to bother him but others have to score around him. Its possible, but an air of vulnerability still hangs over the head of the West Indies batting line up. In conditions at Lords which promise to be overcast, the England seamers won't need much from Swann. Its unlikely any chances created from the edge will go astray, with Bairstow added to a slips cordon which already has safe hands at all heights.
The English batting looks very strong. Back at home after a dreadful winter, blokes like Strauss, Bell and Pietersen will be hungry for runs, whilst Cook and Trott go on their merry accumulating ways. Bairstow couldn't have asked for a better debut Test.
The match starts at Lords tomorrow.