Jonny Bairstow has become pretty adept at Test 50s and hundreds – and he is starting to eye a couple more as he embarks on one of the biggest series of his career to date.
If all goes well for England’s wicketkeeper over the next two months in Australia, he will win his 50th Test cap in the final Ashes match of five in Sydney.
Doubling that tally in due course would be some achievement and not one 28-year-old Bairstow is remotely tempted to take for granted.
He is, however, prepared at least to talk about the “dream” of reaching a century of Tests.
The onus will be on Bairstow more than ever in the forthcoming Ashes, in the anticipated continued absence of Ben Stokes – who is still at home waiting to hear if he will be charged after being arrested in September on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.
England have become accustomed to Stokes and Bairstow providing a rare blend of counter-attacking solidity in their middle order, and they will need the Yorkshireman to keep delivering against Australia.
Reflecting on his 45 Tests to date, and the prospect of making it 50 at the SCG, Bairstow said: “It seems to have gone blooming quick.
“If I reach that milestone it will be a special, special day.
“The family will be out – and it’s part of the journey, isn’t it?”
Bairstow’s ‘journey’ on the pitch has been a tough one at times – including an 18-month hiatus between his last Sydney Test in January 2014 and his return against the same opponents at Edgbaston in late July 2015.
All the wiser for that, he added: “If you look too far ahead you can come unstuck.
“Everyone wants to play 100 Tests and reach that milestone, and I hope it’s a stepping stone.
“It’s a dream to play 100 Tests, (but) I’m not saying that is what I’m going to do – because you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The bumpy road has taught him well.
“It gives you confidence that, yes you’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, yes you will keep on going through a lot of ups and downs, but at the same time (you) know you’ve been through those and come out the other side,” he said.
“The experience you gain from being put in uncomfortable situations and learning about how you get out of those is a good thing.”
As for this winter’s campaign, he acknowledges all-rounder Stokes’ key absence, but insists England still have the collective talent to compensate.
“You take Ben out and yes, there’s a hole in the batting and the bowling, but at the same time you’ve still got a core group of all-rounders in there that can change games and score a lot of runs,” he added.
“It allows the balance of the side still to be there.”
Bairstow’s brief, as ever, remains continued productivity in front of the stumps and eradication of any blemishes behind them.
To that end, he cites the brilliance of Australia wicketkeeper Brad Haddin in the hosts’ 2013-14 whitewash victory as an example to follow.
“(He was) massive – for me, he was near on man of the series,” said Bairstow.
“The catches he took, the way he changed the game when we had them four or five down, was huge – he was unbelievable in that series.”
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