Jonny Bairstow leads England rally against India

Jonny Bairstow leads England rally against India

Jonny Bairstow was eyeing a third hundred in successive Tests after leading England‘s fightback against India at Edgbaston on Sunday in fine style.

England were 84-5, a huge 332 runs behind India’s first innings 416, when play resumed on the third day of the Covid-delayed fifth Test, with Bairstow 12 not out and captain Ben Stokes unbeaten on nought.

But by the time rain brought the morning session to a halt 15 minutes ahead of schedule, England were 200-6, in sight of avoiding the follow-on in a match they had to win to end the five-Test series all square at 2-2.

Bairstow was 91 not out, his latest display of dynamic run-making following scores of 136 at

Bridge and 162 at his Headingley home ground during England’s recent 3-0 whitewash of Test world champions New Zealand.

England’s first series under their new leadership duo of Stokes and red-ball coach Brendon McCullum had several times seen them hit their way out of trouble.

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But doubts had been expressed over whether batting in ‘Bazball’ fashion, a reference to former New Zealand captain McCullum’s nickname, would work against India’s formidable pace attack.

The strengths and weaknesses of such an approach were encapsulated in Stokes’s exit for 25.

Already dropped on 18, when Shardul Thakur floored a routine catch at cover, Stokes was missed again on 25 when India stand-in captain Jasprit Bumrah dropped a low chance at mid-off, with Thakur the unlucky bowler on this occasion.

But Thakur was not unlucky for long as Stokes, far from retreating into his shell, drove harder and higher next ball only for Bunmrah, diving to his left, to hold a brilliant catch and one far harder than the chance he had missed.

England, at 149-6 were still in trouble.

That catch continued an excellent all-round match for Bumrah, leading India for the first time after regular captain Rohit Sharma was sidelined by Covid-19.

The tailender had smashed Stuart Broad for 29 in an over costing a total of 35 — the most expensive in Test history — in a flourish to an India total built on hundreds from Rishabh Pant (146) and Ravindra Jadeja (104).

Bumrah, in his more familiar role of new-ball spearhead, then removed all of England’s top three in a superb haul of 3-35 in 11 overs. That gave him 21 wickets in the series, the most by an Indian bowler in a series in England.

But Bairstow, undisturbed by a verbal altercation with Virat Kohli that prompted the umpires to speak to the former India captain, completed an 81-ball fifty before hammering Mohammed Siraj and Thakur for two resounding sixes.

This decider should have been played in Manchester last September only to be postponed just hours before the start at Old Trafford because of coronavirus concerns within the India camp.

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