England are a well-oiled machine in one-day international cricket, but might have to ‘grit it out’ on the pitches in Sri Lanka in their upcoming series, feels Jonny Bairstow.
Their full tour of the island nation starts with a five-match ODI series – followed by one Twenty20 International and three Tests – in Dambulla on 10 October.
Up on the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Team Rankings, there’s a huge gap between the two sides: England are No.1 and Sri Lanka are No.8, the hosts not at their best in recent times anyway and smarting after an early exit from the recent Asia Cup 2018.
But in Sri Lanka, England know that the big-hitting game they have perfected over the past four years will be tough to replicate. There is also the memory of being beaten 5-2 the last time they toured Sri Lanka, in late 2014. That was also in the lead-up to an ICC Cricket World Cup, and so is this.
“If you look at the pitches for South Africa they looked like good cricket pitches,” said Bairstow, referring to the tracks on which South Africa recently went 3-0 up before the hosts won the last two games.
“Whether they change their tactics and produce pitches that are slightly different for us … so be it. We’ve got to prepare like that’s the case. Yes, we’d like to play on good pitches and yes, we’d like to have high-scoring games, but we’re prepared to guts it out and grit it out if needed.”
As such, England are the hosts of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, and the conditions then will be more to their liking. But this will be a good test, of the players’ temperament above all else.
“Both teams have to bat and bowl on them, whether it’s batting first or bowling first, under lights or through the day. We’ve experienced these challenges before in India and Bangladesh and come out on top, so we’re confident going into the series. We like to think the majority of our players have experienced conditions around the world,” explained Bairstow.
Bairstow has been one of the outstanding batsmen in world cricket over the past few seasons, and sits at No.10 in the player rankings for batsmen in ODI cricket. If nothing changes between now and then, he should be opening the innings for England at the World Cup, a nice change from four years ago when he was not quite in the fray.
“It’s great that it’s gone so well but you want to keep it going in the right direction,” said Bairstow of his role as big-hitting opening batsman in 50-over cricket. “I’m happy with my game, but you want to keep improving, moving forward, pushing yourself. This is a great opportunity to do that.
“It is going to be tough, we know that. It’ll be mentally tough, physically tough … it’s an exciting year, the next 12 months. I think we’ll find out a heck of a lot about each of us individually, each of us within a team, and that’s the great thing and exciting thing to keep driving us forward.”
Before the ODIs start, England have two tour games – on Friday 5 October against Sri Lanka Board XI and on Saturday 6 October against Sri Lankan XI, both games scheduled for Colombo.