Bairstow’s emotional return to scene of the crime

Jonny Bairstow scored a fine century on day two at the WACA Ground.
Jonny Bairstow scored a fine century on day two at the WACA Ground.

LITTLE more than a fortnight ago it appeared Jonny Bairstow had thrown England's Ashes campaign a curve ball it could not survive in a Perth bar.

Now, along with Dawid Malan, he is the man who rescued England from the brink of Ashes destruction in the same city.

Bairstow put the nightmares of the first two Tests behind him on Friday, notching his first ever century against Australia to momentarily put England on top at the WACA.

It's a position of strength that looked a world away when he walked out to bat after lunch on day one, with the tourists teetering at 4-131.

It was a century the affable keeper deserved after a punishing fortnight in Australia.

Rated by many as England's second best batsman after Joe Root, the right-hander found himself in the middle of a storm in a teacup at the Gabba. Stump mics had picked up the Australians sledging him for 'headbutting' Cameron Bancroft and from there Fox Sports' Neroli Meadows uncovered that the Englishman had indeed made head-to-head contact with Bancroft in a Perth bar a month earlier.

That sparked 24 hours of media speculation over just how hard Bairstow had headbutted Bancroft, how severe his punishment should be and why it had only come up now. As it turned out the 'headbutt' was as soft as they come and intended as a greeting, with Bancroft defusing the entire situation perfectly in a post-match press conference.

Still, it led to the introduction of a team curfew for England, fuelled even more accusations of a poor team drinking culture and played a huge role in Bairstow's twin failures at the Gabba. The keeper fell softly in both innings, unnerved by Australia's jibes about an incident which had barely registered as a blip in his memory.

England's Jonny Bairstow celebrates his ton.
England's Jonny Bairstow celebrates his ton.

Bairstow was understandably emotional when he reached triple figures on Friday, looking to the sky in a possible tribute to his father David, who also played for England and tragically took his own life at 46.

He then allowed himself to have the last laugh of November's controversy, headbutting his helmet repeatedly. It was a jovial moment he had well and truly earned.

Australia's quicks were bowling fire when he began his innings. Joe Root and Mark Stoneman had both fallen in the five overs that preceded his entry, and both had been beaten by pace. Stoneman in particular had had a tough time of it, copping a brute of a bouncer to the grille from Josh Hazlewood before being dropped in the slips and then bounced out by Mitchell Starc.

Everything pointed to yet another English collapse but Bairstow and Malan had other ideas.

While Malan looked to pull when he could and block when he couldn't, Bairstow went the other way. Having played the most foolish of upper cuts straight to deep third man at the Gabba, at the WACA Bairstow ducked, weaved and swayed bouncer after bouncer, preying on anything drivable or wide enough to guide through backward point.

Together they put on England's first ever 200-run, fifth-wicket stand in Australia, adding 237 runs before Malan fell to Nathan Lyon.

In the end the collapse came anyway, with England losing six for 35 to be all out for 403, but Bairstow at least had had his moment of redemption.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Topics:  ashes test cameron bancroft century cricket headbutt jonny bairstow waca

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