By Rob Barnett
Jonny Bairstow is “sure” England “will come up trumps” with victory in the Boxing Day Test.
The equation is simple going into day four at the MCG: Australia need 201 more runs to win and Alastair Cook’s side require 10 wickets.
That is after a dramatic third day when the hosts’ last-wicket pair, Brad Haddin and Nathan Lyon, added 40 this morning to limit the first-innings deficit to 51.
At 65 for none, England looked set for victory but spinner Lyon’s first Test five-for in Australia plus three wickets and a run-out from man of the moment Mitchell Johnson restricted the tourists to 179 all out.
Chris Rogers and David Warner then reached stumps on 30 without loss on a still true, if slow, pitch.
England’s strong position was undermined in today’s second session, when half-centurion Cook and Michael Carberry were lbw respectively to Johnson and Peter Siddle before Johnson ran out Joe Root and Lyon ousted Ian Bell. After tea the tourists lost their last five wickets for six runs.
Bairstow, speaking exclusively to ecb.co.uk, said: “It was disappointing in the afternoon session but that’s by-the-by; that’s gone now.
“We’ve got to look forward to tomorrow and how we are going to take those 10 wickets before they get 200 runs.
“The guys are talking about how that’s going to happen tomorrow and [with] the plans that are formulated tonight, tomorrow and [have been] in the past when we’ve played them, I’m sure we’ll come up trumps and we’ll be able to take those 10 wickets.”
Bairstow highlighted that to go 4-0 up in the Ashes series Australia must make more than the 204 they managed before in this match.
“Without a doubt it’s a fighting chance,” he said of England’s prospects.
“It’s going to be tough, but we’ve seen in their first innings that they’re chasing a score that they haven’t yet achieved in the game.”
Accumulating significant runs was still possible today as Cook’s 51 and 49 from Kevin Pietersen proved.
Bairstow was England’s next-highest scorer, with 21, on a drop-in pitch that Rogers yesterday described as “two-paced” and continued to play that way today.
Bairstow, who was caught behind driving a full but fairly wide Johnson ball, reflected: “Without a doubt it was frustrating. There’s no qualms about it.
“It’s disappointing to get out but that is something that happens in cricket and I go away, look at that, and think how I can go on next time.”
Of the playing surface, he added: “It is a little bit slow, but I guess that’s the way this pitch plays in this game.
“It might be different in the next game or so on and so forth. It’s about adapting to conditions and taking it from there.”
Bairstow, 24, is playing in his 13th Test but first as wicketkeeper, having replaced Matt Prior behind the stumps.
The game began with a record cricket crowd of 91,092 and attendances have remained high.
“I’ve really enjoyed it,” Bairstow enthused.
“The first three days have been fantastic, playing in front of 90-, I think it was 78- yesterday and 65- again today – that’s thousand – but it’s been an unbelievable experience.
“And keeping wicket, I’ve been pleased with the way it’s gone so far, but there’s the second innings to go and hopefully we can keep up the good work.”