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Jonny Bairstow admits it means a 'hell of a lot' as he is set to join England's 100 Test club

Jonny Bairstow admits becoming the latest member of England's 100 Test club means a "hell of a lot" after being joined by close family and friends this week to mark the occasion in Dharamsala.

Bairstow is set to become the 17th Englishman to reach the prestigious milestone when the fifth Test against India starts on Thursday and could not wish for a more picture-perfect setting than the HPCA Stadium, which features stunning views of the Himalayan snow-capped mountains in the background.

Several of his nearest and dearest, including mother, sister, partner and infant son, have flown out to celebrate alongside Bairstow, who recognises the magnitude of the occasion.

Unlike England captain Ben Stokes, who remarked in Rajkot earlier in the series of his own 100th Test being "just a number", Bairstow intends to embrace every moment in what he anticipates will be an emotional week.

"It means a hell of a lot," said Bairstow, well-known for wearing his heart on his sleeve. "Every young kid that sets out on a journey playing professional cricket wants to try and play 100 Test matches.

"You look back to 2012 when I made my debut at Lord's, if 12 years later you'd said I'd be playing 100 Test matches, you'd snap your hand off for one but also pinching yourself as well.

"It's great to have my family out here, it's an amazing place to come, they've come to some pretty cool places along the way as well. It's a special occasion for everyone who has been there on the journey.

"It will be an emotional week. I'm proud, you know what I'm like, I'm an emotional guy – so get the tissues ready! It's a special week for me like it was a special week for Ben a few weeks ago."

Bairstow, who coincidentally registered his 100th ODI appearance at the same venue, made his Test debut in May 2012 and has gone on to enjoy several giddy highs in the whites as well as a few crushing lows.

He amassed the most runs by a wicketkeeper in a calendar year in 2016 and lit the touchpaper for the Stokes-Brendon McCullum era with four jaw-dropping centuries in five innings in a stunning 2022.

But he had to rebound from a badly broken leg at the back end of that year while his place has seemed under relentless scrutiny.

Having yet to pass 40 in four Tests in this series, there has been speculation he might be overlooked in the summer with Harry Brook to come back into the England side.

As for whether he can cash in on his landmark appearance in England's final assignment on the tour of India, who took an unassailable 3-1 lead last time out in Ranchi, Bairstow was sanguine.

"It would be nice," said Bairstow. "Like in every game, you put your best foot forward.

"No matter what it is, I'll be going out there, chewing my gum, puffing my chest out and trying to have a good time with the other 10 blokes out there.

"Whatever the situation is, we'll be going out there with smiles on our faces, like we have done in the whole series."

A chillier climate has greeted England in the foothills of the Himalayas and a couple of players were in their thermals in training on Tuesday, with conditions akin to the early English summer.

There has been speculation at England altering the balance of their bowling line-up, with the most recent match on this wicket in India's domestic first-class competition four weeks ago showing all 36 wickets fell to seam.

"I've probably batted the worst I have all trip," said Bairstow of his net session. "But the whole trip I've been happy with how I've been moving, I've been in the zone the whole way."

England's last visit here was blighted by concerns about the outfield ahead of a World Cup group game against Bangladesh last October, but Bairstow is satisfied there will be no issues this time.

"The transition that has been made to produce something like that has been amazing," Bairstow added. "It's absolutely stunning here."

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