Yet it is no surprise the Yorkshireman’s confidence is sky high after coach Trevor Bayliss, on his arrival here in Potchefstroom, gave him his unequivocal backing as England’s first-choice wicketkeeper ahead of the opening Test in Durban on Boxing Day.
Bairstow, who will take his place in a 13-man England side for today’s opening three-day tour match against a South Africa XI, said: ‘Having the confidence of the captain and coach going into the warm-up games and hopefully the first Test allows you to be relaxed and enjoy yourself.
‘That’s when I play my best cricket and hopefully I’ll be able to do that not only in the warm-up games but going into the series.
‘You can never take anything for granted. Every spot within the side has got to be treasured and every opportunity you get you’ve got to try and take.’
Bairstow is still learning on the job, having kept in just three of his 20 Tests.
But he was handed the gloves for England’s last match against Pakistan in Sharjah last month after replacing Jos Buttler.
The 26-year-old has, for now, seen off the challenge of the man he replaced despite Buttler’s stunning return to form in the recent limited-overs series in the UAE, the highlight of which was a 46-ball hundred — the fastest century by an England player in ODIs.
Now Bairstow is focusing on trying to outdo De Villiers both behind the stumps and with the bat.
‘You want to do as well as you can against the best that you can,’ he said.
‘Obviously comparing yourself to someone like AB is going to be a fantastic challenge and if you do come out being the better of the wicketkeeper-batsmen then I will have had a very good tour.’
England were handed a boost yesterday with the news Steven Finn has been added to the squad.
After recovering from the foot injury that had ruled him out of the Pakistan tests, he proved his fitness in two Twenty20 games for England Lions in the UAE. – Daily Mail
Original source: Bairstow aims to outshine AB