YORKSHIRE’S Jonny Bairstow reflected on a “pinch-yourself” moment after completing a significant piece of unfinished business at Lord’s.
Four years ago, he came within five runs of stealing headlines from London’s post-Olympics glow when he fell just short of a maiden Test century against South Africa at the home of cricket.
That opportunity to put his name on the famous honours board slipped by in only his fifth Test innings.
It took him another 32 before he reached three figures for the first time for his country, yet only six more to add his second and third Test centuries – more rewardingly still over the past three weeks, on his home ground at Headingley and now back at Lord’s.
Bairstow was unbeaten on 107 out of 279-6, with 85 too from Alastair Cook, after the England captain had chosen to bat first in pursuit of a 3-0 Investec series whitewash over Sri Lanka.
Only the second England wicketkeeper to hit two centuries in the same series, he was happy to reference his previous near miss when asked his thoughts on finishing the job this time.
“’Why didn’t I do it four years ago?’, I think,” he said.
“It was five runs that loomed over me for a few years, and many people had speculations about, ‘Can he, can’t he...this, that and the other’.
“It’s nice to kind of put the record straight a little bit and say, ‘Yep, I’m happy with the way I’m playing’.”
Bairstow has been in prolific form for the past 12 months, and this summer his combined average for Yorkshire and England is close to three figures.
He added: “There’s been a lot of talk about my technique over however many years, but at the moment I’m pleased with the way I’m striking the ball and moving.”
Asked if he was able to put that 95 from 2012 out of his mind, when the milestone loomed again at HQ, he said: “Absolutely, in many ways, you can.
“But at the same time, there’s always going to be memories – because I was so pleased with the way I played against South Africa.
“To go that one step further, and get a hundred in front of a packed house at Lord’s in the first Test of the summer here is a very special feeling.
“The ovation and way the crowd (reacted) when I was on 98, 99 and then (when) I got there was something I’ll never forget.
“It was a pinch-yourself moment ... with goosebumps.
“It’s been an amazing few weeks. I hope it can continue for many years.”
There was huge satisfaction once more, as in Leeds last month, for another major achievement in a career that has reached a new level.
“That hundred at Headingley is one at your home ground, where you’ve grown up – very, very special in my heart,” said Bairstow.
“At Lord’s, it’s a completely different atmosphere....(and) at the same time a superbly special place to play cricket, and we’re all very fortunate to do so.
“To join an illustrious bunch on the (honours) board is maybe something that should have happened a few years ago.”