Jonathan Bairstow fell just short of a maiden Test hundred as England reached 277 for eight, a deficit of 32 runs, at lunch on the third day of their series finale against South Africa at Lord’s yesterday.
Bairstow instead had to be content with a Test-best 95, having come in on Friday when England were in dire straits at 54 for four — just as South Africa had been — in reply to the tourists’ 309.
There was even more pressure on the 22-year-old Bairstow’s shoulders as he had been brought in to replace Kevin Pietersen, dropped despite scoring a superb 149 in the drawn second Test at Headingley, for a match where South Africa only needed a draw to replace England as the world’s top-ranked Test side. England axed South Africa-born Pietersen for sending “provocative” texts, believed to be critical of England captain Andrew Strauss, to Proteas players.
Bairstow only made his Test debut in May, against the West Indies at Lord’s, but was dropped after his first three matches at this level yielded a mere 38 runs in total.
However, he resumed yesterday on 72 not out in a total of 208 for five.
South Africa, though, only had to wait a few overs for another wicket when the very first delivery with the new ball saw wicket-keeper Matt Prior drive loosely at a Vernon Philander outswinger and edge to second slip Jacques Kallis.
However, Bairstow guided fast bowler Dale Steyn square through the offside for four and clipped Philander through midwicket to go to 90.
The Yorkshireman, the son of late former England wicket-keeper David Bairstow, then had a lucky break when an outside edge off Steyn flew wide of the slips to the third-man boundary.
Meanwhile, Stuart Broad gave a dolly catch to Hashim Amla at short leg as he tried to turn Steyn off his pads.
Bairstow spent 15 runless balls, all against Morne Morkel, on 95, as the fast bowler tied him down on a sunny day when the blue skies above Lord’s offered little assistance for the bowlers.
Tall paceman Morkel was rewarded when he bowled Bairstow, aiming across the line, to end an innings of more than five hours duration featuring 13 fours, with the batsman walking off to a standing ovation from a capacity crowd.