England gloveman Jonny Bairstow has declared the tourists should use the remaining fortnight of their Ashes campaign as a “clean slate” but admits they owe it to captain Joe Root to lift.
The tourists took to the MCG nets on Saturday for the first time since ceding their hold on cricket’s famous urn in Perth. They will head into the Boxing Day Test desperate to regain respectability, having had little to cheer about while falling behind 3-0 in the series.
Paceman Craig Overton (ribs) did not train and remains in serious doubt to retain his spot but Stuart Broad, nursing a left knee problem, did bowl.
Bairstow has proven himself this tour behind the stumps and with a century in Perth but there has been a lack of output or consistency from several of his teammates.
Heading into a venue he calls one of the “icons” of an Ashes campaign, Bairstow says the tourists need to discover their groove.
“Absolutely. We don’t just owe him [Root], we owe ourselves as well. It’s something that you come away and work as hard as we have worked to get nothing out of our tour,” he said.
“Without a doubt in these next two games, it’s a case, in our eyes, as a two-Test series now. That’s exactly how we have to look at it now. We have to look at it, we have got to go out there and try and win both of these Test matches.”
Root has misfired with the bat, contributing a modest 176 runs at 29 compared to counterpart Steve Smith’s 426 at an average of 142, including a stunning 239 in Perth.
Players have been joined by their partners and families in Melbourne, and Bairstow said Root had remained relaxed.
“His family is out and I think that is going to give everyone a nice, fresh boost. It’s always nice to see the family when they get out … it’s been pretty tough,” he said.
“But, at the same time, it has been a very, very enjoyable tour. There is plenty on everyone’s shoulders. That’s the nature of playing cricket at the highest level.”
The tourists are determined to avoid the ignominy of another series whitewash, and the spotlight will continue to be fierce come Tuesday. Bairstow said there were two ways the players could handle the constant chatter from the public and n side about the potential of a 5-0 series loss.
“I don’t think it’s going to be something that plays into our minds too much. It’s a new Test match. Talk about the whitewash, you can talk, you can talk, you can talk – you can talk about whatever you wish to talk about. But in our minds it’s not on our agenda – let’s put it that way,” he said.
“You can look at it as, ‘Yeah, there is even more pressure on’, but, at the same time, you can go the complete opposite way and say, ‘We have got two Test matches to go, let’s try and put things right that we haven’t previously’. I know it’s a bit of cliche but let’s start with a clean slate. In some ways, it may free some of the lads up. Only time will tell that.”
Should Overton he ruled out, the tourists are seriously considering unveiling uncapped Surrey quick Tom Curran on the drop-in deck, as fellow quick Jake Ball struggled in Brisbane. Uncapped leg-spinner Mason Crane, who represented NSW in the Sheffield Shield last season, is also an option, with the tourists under pressure to make changes.
“I’ve got to prepare as if I’m going to play. It’s been tough, 3-0 down is not the place you want to be but at the same time it (touring) has been great. I’ve learned a lot and this is as tough as it ever gets, so I can definitely use this experience,” Crane said.
The futures of veteran new-ball combination James Anderson (12 wickets at 25.83) and Stuart Broad (five wickets at 61.8) have also been questioned, with Broad smarting after his 0-142 in Perth. The pair do not boast the same speed as their n opponents and that’s hurt in terms of providing variety in their game plan. Bairstow said criticism of the pair was unjustified.
“Naturally people will pick things apart, when things are not necessarily going well, but you also have got to … those two guys that open the bowling for us are now the most successful ever seam-bowling partnership that has ever played the game,” he said.
“Yes, you can pick it to pieces and do whatever you wish but the guys have some serious skills. And that’s not just in England. That’s all the way around the world. You don’t take over 900 Test wickets between you without having those skills. To pick people apart after one or two Test matches is very harsh, because it’s very easy to do so.”