JONNY BAIRSTOW last night expressed his pride and delight after being named in the England squad for the third Ashes Test and insisted the hosts can hit back from their heavy defeat at Lord’s.
The Yorkshire batsman has replaced his county colleague Gary Ballance for the match at Edgbaston starting a week today in the only change to the side hammered by 405 runs at headquarters.
Ballance has paid the price for averaging just 17.5 in his last 10 Test innings, although the left-hander still boasts an overall Test average of just under 50.
Bairstow gets his chance after a stunning sequence in county cricket that has brought him 906 runs in 11 County Championship innings at an average of 100.66, with five hundreds and three fifties.
“I’m really pleased to have got the call-up,” said Bairstow, who will bat at No 5 in Birmingham, with Joe Root moving up to No 4 and Ian Bell to No 3.
“I think consistency-wise it’s the best I’ve been, and I’m really pleased to be striking the ball at the moment like that and hopefully it continues.
“It will be a completely different challenge to what I’ve faced so far this season in the county game, and I’m well aware of that.
“International cricket is always a challenge, but that’s why we play the game and what it’s all about.”
Bairstow, 25, has played 14 Tests, the last of them against Australia at Sydney in January last year.
He has used the intervening period to maximum effect, working hard on his game and performing well for Yorkshire.
“I’ve just tried to get on with my business, be at Yorkshire and score runs for Yorkshire,” said Bairstow, who has made 593 Test runs with a highest score of 95 against South Africa at Lord’s in 2012.
“That’s been my No 1 aim – to work hard on my game and do well for the club, and I’m pleased with the way it’s gone this year.
“It’s exciting times for English cricket right now – we saw in the one-day series the brand of cricket being played and the way the team went about their business – and hopefully we can go to Edgbaston next week and put on a show.
“It was only a week or so ago that we beat Australia in Cardiff, so I think a lot of the criticism since then has been pretty harsh, and it’s going to be an exciting series.”
Bairstow also expressed sympathy for Ballance.
“I’m desperately disappointed for Gaz,” he said. “He’s scored a heck of a lot of runs for England in a very short space of time; I think he was the second-fastest to 1,000 runs in an English shirt, so that’s obviously very disappointing for him.
“My thoughts are with him, but it’s inevitable that he’ll be back playing for England sooner rather than later.”
Commenting on England’s 13-man squad for Edgbaston, in which the Yorkshire leg-spinner Adil Rashid is retained along with Middlesex pace bowler Steven Finn, James Whitaker, the national selector, said: “The break ahead of the third Test will give the squad time to reflect on the series so far and a chance to focus on playing the positive, confident cricket we saw in Cardiff.
“Ian Bell will move up the order to bat at three, followed by Joe Root, with Jonny Bairstow coming in at five.
“Jonny has worked extremely hard at his game, and his record for Yorkshire speaks for itself. He fully deserves this opportunity.”
Reflecting on Ballance’s omission, Whitaker added: “Gary was naturally disappointed to miss out on this occasion.
“However, we feel that he will benefit from some time in county cricket to rediscover his form.
“He has already had plenty of success at international level, and, as selectors, we are confident Gary will play a significant role for England in the future.
“On behalf of the selectors, I’d like to wish Alastair, Trevor and the squad all the very best for what will, I’m sure, be an entertaining and competitive Test next week.”
England won the first Test in Cardiff by 169 runs before Australia hit back strongly in London.
The fourth Test takes place at Trent Bridge from August 6, and the fifth at The Oval from August 20.
Meanwhile, England have announced that Yorkshire’s Adam Lyth has received an increment contract for 2014-15.
Under the points system, five points are awarded for a Test appearance and two for a T20 or ODI appearance, with an increment contract awarded automatically once a player reaches 20 points during the 12-month contract period.
Lyth has reached 20 points having played four Tests in the current contract period – two against New Zealand and two against Australia.
England women opened their Ashes series with a four-wicket victory over Australia.
Captain Charlotte Edwards said: “We’ve started as perfectly as we could have.”
Reports: Page 22.