Bairstow’s keeping catches England’s eye

Bairstow’s keeping catches England’s eye

LEEDS (UNITED KINGDOM) – Jonathan Bairstow’s form with the gloves as much as his runs with the bat in the first Test against Sri Lanka delighted England’s backroom staff.

England’s Jonny Bairstow bats on the second morning of the first cricket Test match between England and Sri Lanka at Headingley in Leeds, northern England on May 20, 2016

The Yorkshireman’s 140 on his Headingley home ground laid the plaform for an innings and 88-run win that saw England go 1-0 up in the three-match series.

But the England wicket-keeper, the man-of-the-match, also held nine catches, including a couple of diving efforts that have troubled him in the past, as an attack led by James Anderson, who had overall figures of 10 for 45, kept finding the outside edge in a match that was wrapped up inside three days.

As well as working with specialist wicket-keeping coach Bruce French, himself a former England gloveman, Bairstow also enjoyed a day with Newcastle United football club’s goalkeeping coaches.

“He did one session with the goalkeeping coaches at Newcastle, on balance and shape of the body,” explained England assistant coach Paul Farbrace.

“He really enjoyed that, and got a lot from it.”

Bairstow grassed just one clear chance at Headingley and former first-class wicket-keeper Farbrace said there were definite signs of improvement in his work behind the stumps since England completed a Test series win in South Africa earlier this year.

“He looked balanced and very strong in his movements,” said Farbrace. “In South Africa, he looked unbalanced.

“Predominantly, he stood a fraction too wide … if you get a nick from there, you’re off balance.

“The only chance he dropped in this game, he got done by the angle of the ball and missed it by a fraction.

“The rest of the game, I thought he kept incredibly well.”

Balance of another sort remains an issue for England when it comes to the question of their top-order batting.

They slumped to 83 for five against Sri Lanka at Headingley but opener Alex Hales’s patient 86, his Test-best score, went some way to suggesting he could nail down a place alongside Alastair Cook.

England’s Test captain has had eight opening partners, Hales included, since former skipper Andrew Strauss retired in 2012.

“It’s a shame he didn’t get a hundred. But in the situation, 86 runs on that surface was a fantastic innings,” said Farbrace of Hales’s knock.

“The big thing for him is (to feel) he can play Test cricket.”

– ‘Play your game’ –

Nick Compton, under pressure for his place at number three, made a duck and was then denied a second innings in Leeds by England’s dominance with the ball.

Compton is a steady, ‘old-fashioned’ top-order batsman and Farbrace denied suggestions he’d been told to play more aggressively by the England management or risk being dropped.

“I have read all the stuff about (Compton’s) intense personality, but I have yet to meet a batsman at the top level who is not intense about the way they prepare,” said former Sri Lanka coach Farbrace.

“What (we say to) players in red or white-ball cricket is ‘play your game’.

“There is no pressure from us to put his foot down and start whacking it. We (just) want him to score runs – that is why he is in the side.”

England have one major doubt ahead of the second Test starting at Chester-le-Street on Friday, with all-rounder Ben Stokes struggling to be fit for the match at his Durham home ground after suffering a knee injury.

Stokes went for a scan on Sunday, with England due to name their squad on Monday.

Warwickshire all-rounder Chris Woakes could be called up if Stokes is unfit.

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