Jonny Bairstow laid down a marker to be England's permanent Test number three on Friday but Sri Lanka clawed their way back into their final match with late wickets. England finished the day at 212/7 with Jonny Bairstow hitting 110 on his return from injury.
Jonny Bairstow laid down a marker to be England’s permanent Test number three on Friday but Sri Lanka clawed their way back into their final match with late wickets. England finished the day at 212/7 with Jonny Bairstow hitting 110 on his return from injury.

Jonny Bairstow laid down a marker to be England‘s permanent Test number three on Friday but Sri Lanka clawed their way back into their final match with late wickets. England finished the day at 212/7 with Bairstow hitting 110 on his return from injury.

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“I was obviously pleased with it. There’s only a few times you get to score a hundred for England, so it’s a special time to be out there in the middle,” Bairstow, 29, said afterwards.

“The emotion and hard work that has gone into getting back out on the field is massive,” he said.

The ginger-haired Bairstow was installed at the key number three spot after Ali got a duck and three in the first Test and after an experiment with Ben Stokes in Kandy failed to pay off.

But Bairstow on Friday stopped short of saying he has now made the position his own with his century, his sixth.

“Long term who knows what’s going to happen. In the last year I think I’ve batted at 7, 6, 5, 4 and three. Who knows what’s going to happen long term but I’m happy with my performance today,” he said.

Injuring himself playing football before the Galle Test, he was then left out in Kandy after his replacement at wicketkeeper, Foakes, hit a blistering century — and on his Test debut.

Bairstow made clear Friday though that he hasn’t hung up his gloves just yet.

“I’ve not given up my keeping, I want to make that very, very clear. I’m still working hard on my keeping because it’s something I still want to do,” he said.

Left-arm wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan was Sri Lanka’s most penetrative — and expensive — bowler of the day, taking 4 for 91 off his 21 overs.

Bairstow and Joe Root put on a 100-run stand before the captain fell to Sandakan after lunch, top-edging an attempted slog sweep on 46.

Stokes and Bairstow then made hay, Stokes hitting five fours and two sixes before Sandakan got the Durham all-rounder to edge to slip, his 57 scored off 88 balls.

Bairstow then passed his century, removing his helmet and celebrating with gusto. But he fell for 110, another Sandakan scalp.