England’s wicketkeeper appeared to bristle at times when he was invited to account for the five catches dropped by the hosts while Pakistan were racking up 300 runs on day two to close on 350-8.
Most damage was already done in England’s 184 all out, after Joe Root had chosen to bat first.
But after four Pakistan batsmen then reached 50, despite three wickets each for Ben Stokes and James Anderson, England are clinging to the hope that forecast hot weather over the weekend may bake an already dry surface and leave the tourists a tough last-innings target.
To bring that into the equation, England will have to bat much better at the second attempt.
Asked if he thinks they may yet turn the match around, Bairstow said: “Absolutely, we’re still definitely in it.
“In the middle two innings, if we can gain parity with their score, then we’ve got an opportunity to bowl them out for 180 when it’s potentially the worst to bat, in the last. There’s no reason why we can’t (do that).”
As for England’s dropped catches, Bairstow said: “It’s not from (lack of) practice, that’s for sure. I’m sure you saw over the days leading in the amount of practice we’ve done.
“If you can put your finger on it, you’re welcome to come and join us in practice. You see the hard graft the guys are putting in with the catching.”
He discounted any theory that regular changes in fielding positions may be a factor.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “It’s good to have people to be able to field in different positions. It shows we’ve got guys who are confident (doing that).
“You can look into it as much as you wish, and make up whatever ideas you want about who fields where. You put the best people in there.”
Babar Azam top-scored with 68 before having to retire hurt, and the tourists duly put themselves in a position surely beyond even their own best hopes when Root had chosen to bat first on Thursday morning.
After Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali and Shadab Khan also reached 50.
Root’s men bowled acceptably – Stokes (3-73) the pick and Anderson (3-82) worthy of mention for an impressive spell from the Nursery End in the early afternoon – but after batting so poorly, England fielded no better.
It was a sedate process, but one-way traffic nonetheless, as Pakistan lost four wickets for the addition of 177 runs in the first two sessions.
Heavy cloud cover, as on the first morning, offered the prospect of helpful bowling conditions. Anderson and Stuart Broad did not waste them, but made no headway either against Haris Sohail and Azhar.
The second-wicket pair had taken their stand to 75 when Mark Wood, bowling mostly short to a packed leg-side field, struck with one pitched slightly further up and good enough to take Sohail’s edge.
After then completing his hard-working half-century from 133 balls, Azhar got no further.
The returning Anderson had him lbw pushing forward and was then unfortunate not to add to his tally.
Babar escaped a half-chance low to Alastair Cook’s right at slip on 10, and then Shafiq (59) edged high and wide of the cordon for four.
He passed his half-century with a deliberate upper-cut over the slips off Wood for his sixth four to add to a slog-swept six off debutant Dom Bess.
Stokes ended the fourth-wicket partnership on 84 as he shifted Shafiq with a brute of a short ball, fenced to slip, the next delivery after the same batsman had survived a tough diving chance to Jos Buttler at gully.
Sarfraz Ahmed’s departure to the last ball before tea will have left him infuriated – the captain took on the hook, despite England’s leg-side catchers and the imminence of the second new ball, skying one fine to Wood off Stokes.
After being handed the second new ball Stokes hit Babar on the left wrist with a nasty short one.
After lengthy treatment, Pakistan’s mainstay retired hurt, but youngsters Shadab (52) and Faheem Ashraf eased the tourists into a three-figure lead.
They batted with increasing confidence to add to England’s woes, which were encapsulated in one brief but miserable passage of play for the hosts.
Cook and Bairstow waved through an Ashraf edge off Wood which flew at catchable height between them, and the left-hander clubbed a pull for another boundary next ball.
Then at the other end, England’s frazzled state extended to a regulation drop by Cook off Anderson at slip to reprieve Shadab.
Anderson had Ashraf edging on to his stumps in his next over, the first of his two late wickets, and Stokes bounced out Shadab just after his half-century.