England’s Jonny Bairstow is unperturbed at the prospect of facing Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir again in the two-Test series set to start at Lord’s next week.
Amir, who burst on to the scene with his brilliant left-arm pace and swing eight years ago in England, took his 100th Test wicket to help Pakistan on the way to the hard-earned victory they completed over Ireland in Dublin on Tuesday.
A five-year ban over his part in the 2010 Lord’s spot-fixing controversy stopped Amir in his tracks, of course – but on his comeback tour of England in 2016, there were still signs of the wonderful skills with which he had lit up world cricket as a teenager.
Bairstow succumbed just once, in the final Test at The Oval, and Amir finished the four-match series with 12 wickets at an unflattering 42 each as luck largely evaded him.
England’s wicketkeeper is respectful of Amir’s abilities, but does not appear about to lose any sleep over the hosts’ imminent challenge of taking guard against him in the rematch.
Referencing the drawn series two years ago, Bairstow said: “We played them not too long ago, so there will be people in their team we have played against previously. There are plans that you are going to have.
Bringing Jos in at seven is really exciting. He has obviously been in great form in the IPL.Jonny Bairstow
“You could pick out any right-arm bowler that we have had problems against – (Australia’s) (Mitchell) Starc and (Mitchell) Johnson are two very good bowlers.
“It’s possibly a disservice to our players (to mention it), because we have got players who have scored a lot of runs around the world against left-armers.
“People have got skills – I don’t think it’s a problem that needs highlighting.”
Bairstow is also enthused by the Test return, fresh from the Indian Premier League, of Jos Buttler whose surprise selection at No 7 will allow the Yorkshireman to move up to five as he seeks to consolidate his Test average of 39.20. Reflecting on the first squad picked three days ago by new national selector Ed Smith, Bairstow said: “Bringing Jos in at seven is really exciting.
“He has obviously been in great form in the IPL.
“It is a really positive selection.
“You have got to keep faith with people and you have got to make difficult decisions – and that is exactly what has happened.”
Smith has ‘kept faith’ with Mark Stoneman at the top of the order, but dispensed with James Vince at No 3 – a position which will instead be filled by captain Joe Root. Vince’s omission was accompanied with words of advice from Smith, who spelled out that he believes the Hampshire batsman has the ability to score many more runs than he so far has and needs to go out and prove it.
Speaking at New Balance’s launch of England’s kits for this year, Bairstow said: “Vincey is a fantastic player.
“It is well above my pay grade to decide what he needs to do, but that conversation will have been had.”
England captain Root agrees with his fellow Yorkshireman that Buttler’s recall to the Test side is a “step in the right direction”.
The batsman, who averages just over 30 in 18 Tests, is set to make his first five-day appearance since December 2016 after impressing in the Indian Premier League for Rajasthan Royals, where he hit scores of 39, 94 not out, 95 not out, 82 and 51 in his last five innings.
And Root believes Buttler’s explosive batting will make a big difference at No 7.
“I think Jos is a fantastic player,” said Root. “He has done some great stuff in the recent past in the IPL and in the one-day team and he brings a different dynamic to the team moving forward in that No 7 role. He can go and express himself at seven and Jonny (Bairstow) will move up to No 5.
“He has had a fantastic winter, it’s a bit more responsibility given to him, which excites me, and it is a step in the right direction for this side.”
Captain Root also spoke of his enthusiasm at moving up the order.
He has had 31 innings at No 3, including his Test best of 254 two years ago, also against Pakistan.
“I am excited, I have had a bit of experience there a couple of summers ago against Pakistan and flirted with it in the winter in New Zealand,” he added.
“I am excited for that challenge, taking that responsibility, leading from the front and getting out there as soon as possible, try and make those starts really count and kick on from those 50s and 60s I have been getting and get really big hundreds.”