And Bairstow said the squad retains belief that they can put a run of victories together. “There’s a reason why the guys won the T20 World Cup last year; there’s a reason why the guys won the 2019 World Cup, and we’re the defending champions,” he said. “Just because we’ve lost a game to Afghanistan doesn’t make us bad cricketers or anything like that.
“You look at [Fazalhaq] Farooqi, his record in the IPL; you look at the three spinners that they’ve got and their records. Just because they play for Afghanistan, they’re no slouches. They’ve actually got some of the world’s best in there and they’ve got match-winners. We lost that game, we didn’t play well enough, and we’ve accepted that and moved on from that.”
Asked whether England’s batting line-up is still capable of dominating opposing teams in the way they have over the last eight years, Bairstow said: “I don’t really think much has really changed, has it? You look at the strength in depth that we have with our batting line-up… I don’t think the firepower can be questioned.
“We’re just focusing on ourselves. That’s what we do. We’ll go out and play the way that we’re looking to play, put pressure on the opposition like we said that we’d try and do. People are allowed to bowl or bat well. But if our mindset is right and if the way in which we approach the game is right, then that’s the bit that we can control.”
England’s players came in for significant criticism across broadcast and print media after their defeat on Sunday, which the squad have largely ignored. But they have taken issue with one report which focused on the players’ use of their downtime and suggested that they should spend less time on the golf course, and more in the nets.
“The group remains calm within it,” Bairstow said. “Belief and confidence isn’t something that’s been questioned one bit. That’s something that you’re able to call upon when you do lose a game. We lost to Sri Lanka in 2019. We lost to Pakistan in 2019. We still went through. There were similar things that I’m sure you guys [the press] wrote in 2019 at the home World Cup.
“But that’s OK. That’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to write certain things about certain members and what people do and don’t do in their downtime. That’s things that you’ll fill in the [column] inches and you’re doing that. Whether it’s true, whether it’s incorrect, whatever it is – that’s up to you to do that, isn’t it?
“The confidence is there. It’s unwavering. There’s no lack of belief within this group.”
Responding to a question about whether criticism would bring the squad closer together, Bairstow said: “Not really, no. I don’t read it [but] I got told about some of the stuff that you put, so we’ll leave it at that.”
England will also face South Africa in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup in Paris on Saturday night, which Bairstow said would be “a great day” for two “extremely proud nations”. He added: “You’ll have people in South Africa having a few brandy-and-cokes and a couple of braais, and you’ll have a few Englishmen popping down the pub… it’ll be great, and hopefully both results go our way.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98