Bairstow and co primed for testing series in Sri Lanka

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Jonny Bairstow says England are ready to “grit it out” in Sri Lanka if the hosts prepare awkward batting pitches during the forthcoming one-day series.

The sides will contest five ODIs in a fortnight, starting on Wednesday, with the islanders desperate to engineer an upturn in form after a dire run.

They are winless in their last nine home series, last triumphed on home soil in 2015 and are coming directly off back-to-back defeats at the Asia Cup.

The recent visit of South Africa ended in a 3-2 loss, with generally friendly conditions. Bairstow expects England’s explosive batting line-up to be faced with more challenging surfaces but insists that is no cause for concern.

“If you look at the pitches for South Africa they looked like good cricket pitches. Whether they change their tactics and produce pitches that are slightly different for us…so be it,” he said ahead of Friday’s warm-up match against a local XI in Colombo.

“We’ve got to prepare like that’s the case. Yes, we’d like to play on good pitches and yes, we’d like to have high-scoring games but we’re prepared to guts it out and grit it out if needed.

“Both teams have to bat and bowl on them, whether it’s batting first or bowling first, under lights or through the day. We’ve experienced these challenges before in India and Bangladesh and come out on top, so we’re confident going into the series.

Bairstow has been one of England's star ODI performers in the last 18 months
Bairstow has been one of England’s star ODI performers in the last 18 months (Danny Lawson/PA)

Bairstow arrived in Sri Lanka as one of the cornerstones of an England side ranked number one in the world and building towards next year’s World Cup on home soil.

His one-day record in 2018 has been stellar, averaging 51.05 in 19 innings as well as reeling off four centuries.

For a player who had to bide his time to nail down his top-order slot, it has been a persuasive coming-of-age spell in the 50-over format.

“If you look back 18 months you wouldn’t necessarily be standing here saying those words,” he said.

“It’s great that it’s gone so well but you want to keep it going in the right direction. I’m happy with my game, but you want to keep improving, moving forward, pushing yourself.

“This is a great opportunity to do that.”

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