Jonny Bairstow’s tirade against the media last week caused quite a stir ahead of England’s must-win World Cup clash with India, but it also contained some sound advice.
After lambasting former players Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen for their negative comments following damaging defeats by Sri Lanka and Australia the Yorkshireman pleaded with the cricketing public, saying: “Bloody Nora. Chill out guys, you’re panicking.”
His assertion that “people were waiting for us to fail” may have resembled a straw man argument, but the effect it had on Bairstow himself was undebatable. He played like a man possessed by the belief that the whole world was against him, smashing the ball around Edgbaston to set the platform for England’s 31-run win, which has steadied the ship and steered them back on course for the semi-finals.
Reunited with Jason Roy at the top of the order, Bairstow was at his brilliant best, weathering a shaky start before accelerating and showing no mercy to India’s spinners.
He tried to force the pace early on against the seamers, but after seeing two inside-edges fly past his stumps from Mohammed Shami he took the attack to Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, using his Indian Premier League experience and bottom hand-dominant technique to muscle the ball over the legside on six occasions.
“Having been in the IPL it has helped me play spin and how to build an innings in all conditions,” Bairstow explained after picking up the man of the match award. “The ball did bits at first. I had some inside edges and you ride your luck when you can.”
With Roy’s hamstring holding firm and his bat providing exactly what the management had hoped for, England were well on their way to reminding us just how good they are at one-day international cricket.
It was a very important toss for captain Eoin Morgan to win. Allowed to bat first, the nervy, error-strewn chases of the last two games were replaced by the familiar sight of authoritative, aggressive run-scoring. Bairstow (111) and Roy, who benefited from a glove down the legside not being spotted by umpire Aleem Dar or reviewed by India on his way to making 66, posted a confidence-boosting 160-run partnership in a stand which went a long way to deciding the game.
From thereon in just about everything went to plan. Ben Stokes continued his fine run of form to score 79 from 54 balls and get England to a daunting 337-7; Chris Woakes opened with three successive maidens and took a stunning catch; and the recalled Liam Plunkett picked up three vital wickets – including that of India captain and ODI-chasing expert Virat Kohli – to show precisely why he needs to play every game.
On a slow, two-paced pitch, a bizarre anti-climatic conclusion to the game, courtesy of the lackadaisical MS Dhoni, gave us time to reflect on the resounding nature of England’s performance.
Before this game India were the only unbeaten side left in the World Cup. England thoroughly outplayed them.
Before this game there were rightly questions over England’s ability to deal with pressure. They have gone some way to allaying them.
Before this game England faced the stark prospect of not qualifying for the semi-finals at a home World Cup with a favourable format in which they were the favourites. Their fate is still in their hands.
Victory moved Morgan’s side back past Pakistan into fourth place. If they beat New Zealand in their final group game on Wednesday they will be guaranteed a place in the knockout phase – quite likely at Edgbaston, against the same opposition they mastered today.
All is under control. As Bairstow suggested: chill out guys, you’re panicking.