Fire in Jonny Bairstow’s belly revives England

Jonny Bairstow’s match-winning hundred against India was a result of “fire in the belly”, according to England captain Eoin Morgan.

England's Jonny Bairstow during the ICC Cricket World Cup group stage match at Edgbaston, Birmingham. (Picture: PA)

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Back-to-back defeats by Sri Lanka and Australia left England in a tight spot heading into their stiffest challenge yet, with Bairstow’s suggestion that critics were “waiting for us to fail” only serving to crank up the tension.

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It was fitting, and only slightly predictable, that he would be the man to underpin a crucial 31-run victory at Edgbaston, putting himself back in the spotlight for all the right reasons with a fluent 111.

There were key supporting roles for two returning figures, the fit-again Jason Roy (66) and the recalled Liam Plunkett 
(3-55), as well as Ben Stokes, who steered the side the 337-7 in the closing stages.

But Yorkshire’s Bairstow deservedly took centre stage, summoning all his fighting spirit to catapult England back into the top four and leave qualification for the semi-finals in their own hands.

“He does tend to get fired up and that suits him, regardless of what’s happened in the week,” said a beaming Morgan.

“He likes a bit of fire in his belly and I don’t mind when he comes out and plays like that. We’re delighted for him.”

Bairstow hopes his reputation for thriving in adversity does not lead to a rough road in the future, and insisted his previous comments had been ‘misinterpreted’.

“Look, I’m not saying I want everyone to come out and abuse me! By no means am I saying that,” he said when informed of Morgan’s assessment.

“At no point have I said the public is not behind us. The interview had taken place with six, eight, 10 journalists in a very jovial, relaxed manner.

“To read how it was taken was very disappointing.

“But there’s nothing you can change about the past...yesterday’s news is today’s fish and chip paper, that’s the saying isn’t it?”

England’s win means they are not reliant on results elsewhere and head into their closing group game against New Zealand at Chester-le-Street certain of progressing to the semi-finals with another victory.

Their performance against India has strengthened Morgan’s belief that they could be timing their run to perfection.

“I’m delighted. The manner in which we played, particularly with the bat, was outstanding,” he said. “It’s come at a really good time and against an extremely strong team, so we’re delighted.

“Having played how we did today is very encouraging for us. The closer we get to playing our A-game, the more chance we have of going all the way. If we were scraping along I wouldn’t be as confident.”

Roy’s return was particularly significant after three games and four innings on the sidelines with a hamstring tear but he took a blow on his arm while batting which precluded his involvement in India’s reply.

Morgan played down any fears over the opener, adding: “He should be fine.

“Having him back in the team is quite a big confidence-booster for everybody, particularly when he plays the way he did.

“He’s very intimidating, hard to bowl to. He’s a gun player.

“He and Jonny complement each other.

“Their partnership ebbed and flowed as the two of them looked to take the game to India.”

Plunkett, included at the expense of Moeen Ali, also proved significant, the Surrey seamer’s haul including the crucial wicket of India captain Virat Kohli.

Former Yorkshire bowler Plunkett has been a conspicuous absentee in England’s defeats but Morgan insists it is reductive to say the bowler is England’s lucky charm.

“We’ve haven’t necessarily missed him but we haven’t bowled as well [without him],” added Morgan.

“The wicket suited him and he bowled beautifully. It’s one thing saying a pitch will suit a guy but another to come off the bench after missing some games and delivering.

“It was an outstanding effort from a very experienced player.”