Australia great Shane Watson has hailed the on-field transformation of veteran England batter Jonny Bairstow and has shared his views about what’s likely to be behind his recent resurgence in Test cricket.
So often used to plug holes in England's Test line-up in years gone by, Watson believes Bairstow has finally matured as a red-ball player and is now one of the first players picked in Ben Stokes' side.
And it's as a specialist batter that Bairstow continues to thrive, with the days of juggling his batting and keeping commitments now seemingly behind the evergreen 32-year-old.
Watson said a particular Bairstow innings against Australia during the Ashes earlier in 2022 demonstrated how Bairstow could prosper as a top-class middle order batter.
"I've always been very impressed with Jonny Bairstow and, initially, it was in the shorter formats (of the game), but that hundred he got at the SCG during the Ashes was brilliant," Watson told Sanjana Ganesan on the most recent episode of The ICC Review.
"The way he took on the bowlers and his fearless way of batting is exactly what he has shown in the two Test matches against New Zealand.
"That hundred at Trent Bridge (against New Zealand) was special, as not many players can do what he did and dominate an international bowling attack in the way he did."
Bairstow has been one of England's most consistent performances at Test level in recent times, with the right-hander having scored five of his 11 Test centuries in 2022.
His recent run has coincided with the appointment of Brendon McCullum as coach and Ben Stokes as captain and Watson thinks the pair have provided Bairstow with more freedom to bat on instinct and to play his natural game.
"The combination of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum…he is always going to let people have that freedom just to be able to take the game on,” Watson noted.
"If that's your natural game, then you just go for it. And that's exactly what Jonny Bairstow has done."
And with the newfound confidence helping Bairstow to two centuries and a total of 394 runs during the three-match Test series against New Zealand, Watson sees no reason why the experienced England batter can't build on his recent performances and continue to thrive.
"He has discovered, across all formats, exactly what works for him and that’s just taking on the game, taking on the bowlers and putting pressure on the bowlers from ball one,” Watson said.
"There's no reason that he can't continue to do this all the way through to the end of his career.
“He’s discovered what works for him…he’s found that formula and he's just got to keep repeating that over and over again."
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