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Cricket news - I've worked on my defensive game a bit more - Bairstow

Jonny Bairstow displayed a far tighter technique in the second Test and reaped the rewards with a vital 51

After scoring a half-century on a difficult pitch in Antigua, England batsman Jonny Bairstow admits he has had to adapt his game to suit the demands of batting higher up the order in Test cricket.

Bairstow has spent much of his career at six and seven, positions where he has had a lot of success, but in the last six months he has found himself batting at three and four, latterly without the wicket-keeping gloves after Ben Foakes's emergence on the tour to Sri Lanka earlier this winter. Being exposed to fresher bowlers with a newer, harder ball has been a new and unexpected test for Bairstow.

When he was promoted to number four during the series against India last summer, the right-hander lasted only one innings and the nature of his dismissals in that series led some to question whether his technique was tight enough for the top order, particularly when the ball moves around. In particular, he looked to be staying leg-side of the ball, an asset in the one-day game but not so much in the longer format, and playing big shots when more circumspection was called for.

Today, with conditions in the bowlers' favour after England were inserted on a pitch with plenty of variable bounce, Bairstow displayed a far tighter technique and reaped the rewards with a vital 51. "For me, if it was outside off, I would leave it alone unless it was short, then I'd throw the kitchen sink at it, to be honest!" Bairstow told Sky Sports. "And I'd wait for the one that was a bit too full, and try not to hit it too hard when I was driving, that was something I tried to concentrate on.

"Previously, I'd gone a bit hard at the ball, but I've worked on my defensive game a bit more. I think it's a case of understanding the situation you are coming in at. When I was coming in at No. 6 or 7, it was against a slightly older ball and guys who've bowled 10-12 overs. But at 3, they've potentially got a new ball in hand, and are in their first spells. They are fresh, the pitch is fresh, so you've got to take account of that, what the ball's doing, and the overhead conditions."

Despite runs from Bairstow and Moeen Ali, England were bowled out for 187 although how good a score that is will not be known until West Indies have batted on the pitch tomorrow. "It was tough," Bairstow said. "I don't think you ever felt in. You always knew there was one that might bounce or keep low, especially when they've got three guys who are well over six foot. They made us make decisions on a pitch that was bowler-friendly, certainly in the first couple of sessions.

"If you look at the pitch, there's two different grass types. From where the balls were bouncing, there was either a ridge there or something to do with the grass, but unfortunately a few dismissals came from balls that made us play certain shots."

Although James Anderson and Stuart Broad passed the bat often, England could not make a breakthrough in the final session as West Indies reached the close 30 without loss. As ever in Test cricket, the first hour of day two will be crucial. If England don't get some joy, the series could well slip away from them.

"Tomorrow will be interesting," Bairstow said. "I thought we bowled really well tonight, and were unlucky not to get a few nicks. The boys put the ball in the right areas, and to only be 30 off 21 overs is a testament to that fact. The ball went past the bat many, many times and on another day you'd nick a few."

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