Jonny Bairstow has found release from a troubled Ashes tour thanks to a kindhearted gesture from an Australian cricket fan who won a pair of autographed wicketkeeping gloves owned by Bairstow’s father nearly 40 years ago.
Andrew Johns was a small boy when he won the gloves in an Adelaide quiz because he knew that David Bairstow was England’s reserve wicketkeeper on the 1978/9 Ashes tour.
Now he has presented them to Jonny as a memento of a tour in which he has followed in the footsteps of his late father.
Mr Johns tracked down Bairstow on Instagram and spent half-an-hour or more chatting with him early one morning in the England team’s Adelaide hotel.
Bairstow has had a tough time in Australia, still to make a major contribution with the bat and derided for his “headbutt” greeting to Cameron Bancroft in a Perth bar soon after England’s tour party touched down in Australia.
He expressed delight at “a fantastic gesture” – leaving Mr Johns to tell ABC Radio that Bairstow, far from being a threat to life and limb, is “a ripping bloke”, and causing fans to take to Twitter to praise “a fabulous and heartwarming story”.
“He was quite emotional to receive the gloves, it was really lovely,” Johns told ABC Radio. “I just lost my father this year in June — he was 83, but had a great life — and I know if someone gave something to me that belonged to my father I’d want it, and that’s what I wanted to do for Jonny.
“He’s a ripping bloke. My dad used to say if you ever meet a Yorkshireman he’s as close to an Australian as you’ll get, down to earth with a laugh and a beer and tell you how it is, and he’s exactly all of those.”
Meanwhile, during a series characterised by ill will, one simple gesture might be said to have discovered the true spirit of the Ashes.