Jonny Bairstow further advanced his case for a long-term future at number three in Barbados but does not expect an easy ride in England’s problem position.
The slot once filled with reliable certainty by Jonathan Trott has become a revolving door in recent years – with Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali all tried before moving back down the order and the likes of Gary Ballance, James Vince and Tom Westley found wanting.
Bairstow was the latest to be handed an audition on his return to the team in November, making a fine century in Colombo to help secure a 3-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka.
A three-Test series against the West Indies will see the experiment continue and the 29-year-old ensured he will go in full of confidence following a confident knock of 98 in England’s final warm-up match against a CWI President’s XI.
Bairstow’s controlled aggression brought him 10 fours and two sixes, not to mention almost two-and-a-half valuable hours at the crease, and proved the highlight of the tourists’ 379 for 10.
The Yorkshire batsman is not reading too much into his early successes, though, and knows he will need to continue evolving if he is to feel fully at home in the top order.
“At three you’re probably going to be facing the new ball, fresher bowlers on fresher pitches, so there will be a bedding in period and you might not get it right every time because it will be different to five, six or seven,” he said.
“I’ve batted in a lot of positions in the last few years. I’d still have my head in a load of books if I thought too much about the stats for every position but for me it’s a case of going out and doing what I need to do and trying to adapt again to a different role in the side.
“It was good fun out there and nice to spend some time in the middle. It was a confidence booster leading into next week and the Test series.”
Bairstow was also keen to point out that his elevated position on the batting card did not mean he was giving up on his chances of regaining the wicketkeeping gloves from Ben Foakes, who arrived in Sri Lanka as injury cover and ended up man of the series.
“Down the line you want to be doing something you’ve done the last 10-15 years of your career. I’ve not stopped practising my keeping, not by any means, because we’ve all seen how quickly things change,” he said.
“Whether it be at three or whether it be keeping wicket you want to be playing in the team, winning series and Test matches for England.”
England will be joined in Barbados over the weekend by Durham seamer Mark Wood, called up to replace the injured Olly Stone.
Wood played the last of his 12 Tests last May and appeared to be moving towards a future as a limited-overs specialist.
An impressive performance against Pakistan A for England Lions before Christmas, taking five wickets and relocating top pace, did enough to persuade the selectors he warranted another look.
“I am really pleased to get the call but I do feel for Olly in these circumstances,” he said.
“I have put a lot of work into my game when I was away with the Lions in the UAE during November and December and I took on board what the coaches were looking for while I was there.
“I am enjoying myself and having fun with the game again and my body is good to go.”