As Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root emerged from the pavilion on Saturday morning to a warm and sunny reception from a capacity Lord’s crowd, they took a moment to count their blessings. “Joe and I said to each other: ‘How good is to be walking out on a Saturday at Lord’s with your best mate?’” Bairstow recalled at stumps on day three. “To have a full crowd, with our family and friends here, was really special. The Lord’s buzz was definitely back.”
England’s buzz was back too, for now at least. They began the day with a mountain to climb but ended it with a slender lead of 27 thanks in large part to Bairstow’s 57 and Root’s gargantuan unbeaten 180 – the England captain’s fifth century in seven months, and one that took him past Graham Gooch into second place in the all-time list of England Test run-scorers. Only Alastair Cook now stands in his way.
“I’ve run out of superlatives, to be honest,” Bairstow said of his Yorkshire teammate. “To see him in the form that he is, playing the way he is, it’s awesome. Having batted with each over many years, you get a gauge of each other’s temperament. You bounce off one another, and we enjoyed every single moment. It’s been about having fun, enjoying the challenge, playing with a smile. We’ve scored nearly 400 today, and you can see the way in which we’re going about it, smiling and laughing, keeping that relaxed but focused attitude.”
Bairstow’s strong form on his return to the Test side has been one of the more cheering elements of the series, even if he was disappointed to succumb to India’s short‑ball trap two overs before the second new ball, gloving a pull to slip. “The game today went through a few different periods,” he said. “This morning the ball was a bit higher, and then the rate slowed as the ball got softer, and it was more difficult to rotate the strike and score boundaries.
“I’d have liked to have gone on, but it was one of those things. The pitch is slightly two‑paced, a few flying through to the keeper and a few that were dying. When you’re trying to duck and weave, it can get tricky. It caught the glove today; on another day it might go over the slip cordon, or you might get a bottom edge for one. But if they’re going short, then that means you’re doing something right with your defence.”
For all England’s dominance on days two and three, pegging India back from 267 for two late on day one, the game remains tantalisingly poised going into Sunday, and tellingly Bairstow was not yet prepared to install England as favourites. “Let’s see how tomorrow goes,” he said. “We’ve got a new ball, and it was tough and challenging when they got their second new ball, so we’ll come in tomorrow firing. We’ve got guys who can challenge them in every way possible. It’s going to be a really challenging day.”