England v South Africa: Jonny Bairstow will thrive, says Boycott

Jonny Bairstow and Matt Prior
Jonny Bairstow and Matt Prior

Former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott praised Jonny Bairstow for his unbeaten 72 on day two of the final Test against South Africa at Lord's.

Bairstow, in the side for the dropped Kevin Pietersen, came to the crease at 54-4, but took the home side to 208-5 by the close, 101 behind.

"He is a quality player and you'll see him play even better," said Boycott.

"I'm not saying he's as good as Pietersen or ever will be, but the kid can play."

Bairstow, 22, was recalled to play his fourth Test after struggling against West Indies earlier this summer, and responded by making his maiden half-century.

"I thought he played really well. He ducked and dived. He has a good temperament," Boycott told BBC Test Match Special.

"I think in years to come he'll become a top player for England - he's only a kid at the moment."

The Yorkshire batsman struggled to deal with short bowling against West Indies, but weathered a barrage from South Africa pair Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn.

The right-hander added 124 for the fifth wicket with Ian Bell, who made 58, to haul England back into a match they must win if they are to avoid losing the series and their spot at the top of the world Test rankings.

"He certainly showed some great character," said Bell. "He was left out of the team and had to go away and work on some areas of his game, which were tested straight away.

"He hit the ball hard and looked a quality player, but he needs to kick on tomorrow [Saturday] and get us into a good position.

"I think we have got our way back into the game, but there's a big period tomorrow morning.

"There are eight overs until the new ball, and if we can win the first hour then it could turn into a great Test match."

South Africa paceman Vernon Philander, who dismissed Bell late in the day, said the Proteas were not disappointed at failing to hammer home their advantage.

Indeed, the tourists had been in an identical position to England on the first day - 54-4 - with Philander's maiden Test half-century helping them to 309 all out.

"The wicket is good to bat on and the way we bowled was phenomenal," said Philander.

"Bell and Bairstow got in and played well, but I still think that we bowled very well.

"After being 54-4 on day one, 309 was a score we would have taken and if we get another one or two wickets we are into the tail, so that could play into our hands."

Listen to Jonathan Agnew and Geoff Boycott review each day's play on the Test Match Special Podcast.

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