Cape Town - England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow is relishing the prospect of a “massive” tour of South Africa.
It’s also a tour where the 26-year-old will bid to confirm himself as England’s first-choice Test wicketkeeper.
Bairstow is the man in possession of the gloves, after replacing Jos Buttler in the United Arab Emirates, and was given the backing of head coach Trevor Bayliss before the players flew out to South Africa last week.
Bairstow can therefore afford to prepare for the four-Test series, which begins in Durban on December 26, with clarity over his position and a focus on what he needs to do to be best prepared to take on the world’s top-ranked side.
The acclimatisation to South African conditions, after two months in the Middle East, has already begun in the world-class facilities ain Potchefstroom, before the three-day warm-up match against a South African Invitational XI starts on Tuesday.
“It’s obviously a massive transition. You go from the UAE that’s very low, slow and where reverse swing plays a huge role,” Bairstow told the ECB’s official website.
“Here you’re going to be stood a bit further back the balls going to carry a bit more and hopefully it will be a little bit easier to keep over here but you never know because I’ve not done it too much over here.”
Bairstow has kept in just three of his 20 Tests to date, although does have recent experience behind the stumps in South Africa after touring with England Lions at the start of the year.
He will look to build on that knowledge in the two warm-up games as he prepares for a series he believes would have been vital to his career regardless of whether he was selected as a wicketkeeper or batsman.
"It's a massive tour. Every time you pull on a shirt for England it's a massive game and hopefully it's a successful series for myself and, first and foremost, the team,” said Bairstow.
“If we can come out of this against the No 1 team in the world having put in some good performances and hopefully having won the series then everyone will be happy.”