England batsman Jonny Bairstow is set to feature at No 5 in the first Test against New Zealand


England batsman Jonny Bairstow is set to feature at No 5 in the first Test against New Zealand in ANOTHER change of position… but insists move up the order ‘will not be that different’ from No 6 position

  • England will prefer Jonny Bairstow instead of Harry Brook at No 5 in the order 
  • But he could end up at No 7 if wicketkeeper Ben Foakes nails down a place 
  • Bairstow has hit eight centuries in numerous roles in 83-match Test career
  • It was at No 6 Bairstow made two centuries last winter in Sydney and Antigua

Jonny Bairstow will step straight from the IPL into another change of position in the England batting order this week knowing there may yet be another twist to his Test tale.

England will prefer the experience of Bairstow at five in the first Test of the summer at Lord’s against New Zealand to the promise of run-laden newcomer Harry Brook.

But it is back at seven, complete with gloves, that Bairstow could yet end up unless Ben Foakes finally nails down his place in this three-Test series against the world champions.

Jonny Bairstow will step straight into another change of position in the England batting order

England will prefer his experience to the promise of Harry Brook (above) at No 5 in the order

England will prefer his experience to the promise of Harry Brook (above) at No 5 in the order

Such is the state of flux around a man who has played 83 Tests but, despite eight centuries in numerous roles, has never seemed fully established in the red-ball set-up.

It was at six that Bairstow made the two centuries last winter, at Sydney and Antigua, that earned him the nod from England’s new regime for Thursday’s first Test even though his fellow Yorkshireman Brook has made an outstanding case for a debut.

New captain Ben Stokes desire to return to six while asking his predecessor Joe Root to go back to four leaves Bairstow sandwiched between the two, insisting he is fresh and ready to go despite a non-stop winter that ended with Punjab Kings just over a week ago.

‘It’s not that different,’ insisted Bairstow at Lord’s on Monday of the move from six to five as England, complete in their rather grey and drab looking new training gear, practised under the guidance of Stokes and new coach Brendon McCullum for the first time.

But he could end up at No 7 if wicketkeeper Ben Foakes nails down a place against New Zealand

But he could end up at No 7 if wicketkeeper Ben Foakes nails down a place against New Zealand

‘Last time I was at five I was keeping for the majority of time too so that adds another dimension. You could put that middle order in any order and it doesn’t make much difference. Adaptability is the key and we’re all excited about what lies ahead.’ 

For Bairstow adaptability means another switch from white to red-ball cricket without any match practice, a fact of modern-day life but one that rather undermines the achievement of Brook in making 840 runs in six County Championship matches this season.

‘We’ve seen this many times and we have to make a lot of transitions with the amount of cricket we play,’ said a lean looking Bairstow. ‘At the end of the day I will be 22 yards away from a red ball coming down at me rather than a white one. It’s the same for the Kiwis as well. More of them than us have come straight from the IPL.’

For all Bairstow’s insistence he is happy back in a No5 position where he averages 27.97 in 36 Test innings, it is the prospect of him taking back his beloved keeping gloves and a No7 role where he averages 37.69 in 44 innings that is an intriguing sub-plot to this series.

It was at six that Bairstow made the two centuries last winter, at Sydney and Antigua

It was at six that Bairstow made the two centuries last winter, at Sydney and Antigua

Sportsmail understands Foakes will be one of the England players under most scrutiny against New Zealand after he failed to grab his chance with both hands in the Caribbean.

It is perhaps significant that Bairstow will today be taking his gloves out of his bag at Lord’s to practice with keeping coach James Foster, with the new regime more inclined to hand Bairstow his preferred all-round role or give another Test chance to Jos Buttler.

For now Bairstow, another multi-format player who will be asked to prioritise Test cricket this summer, is looking forward to playing under a former keeper and attacking batter in McCullum. ‘He’s someone I’ve always wanted to work with,’ said Bairstow.

Bairstow is looking forward to playing under a former keeper in Brendon McCullum (right)

Bairstow is looking forward to playing under a former keeper in Brendon McCullum (right)

‘I’ve played against him and grown up watching him and I’ve always been intrigued by him. I’ve looked up to Baz in many ways for the way he plays his cricket.’ And there was never any chance, Bairstow insists, of England resting him here even though he has been on the road all winter and was one of the players most affected by Covid induced bubble life.

‘I feel good,’ he added. ‘I’m happy where I’m at physically and the end of bubbles has added an amount of freshness because it’s nice to be able to do normal things again. 

‘Just to be able to leave our hotel and have normal conversations instead of on Zoom. I’m a social person and I’ve found it tough. Hopefully come Thursday we’ll be fizzing and so will Lord’s.’

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