JONNY BAIRSTOW last night showed England what they are missing by blasting only the fourth century for Yorkshire in T20 cricket.
Bairstow smashed an unbeaten 102 from 58 balls with eight fours and six sixes as Yorkshire beat Durham by 49 runs.
Bairstow’s innings was the third-highest for the county in T20 behind the twin tons of former Australia all-rounder Ian Harvey, who scored 109 against Derbyshire at Headingley in 2005 and 108 not out against Lancashire at Headingley in 2004.
Former South Africa batsman Herschelle Gibbs is the only other man to score a hundred for Yorkshire in the game’s shortest form – 101 not out against Northamptonshire at Northampton in 2010.
Bairstow, who has played 18 T20 internationals, the last of them against New Zealand at Wellington in February last year, produced a truly outstanding performance before a 5,000-plus crowd in the Chester-le-Street sunshine.
The 24-year-old, whose previous best T20 score was 68 not out against Sussex in the 2012 semi-final at Cardiff, displayed devastating power to near single-handed propel Yorkshire to 186-8 after they were put into bat, 130 of those runs coming off the last 11 overs.
Bairstow arrived at the crease with his side 12-2 in the third over after overseas stars Aaron Finch and Kane Williamson had fallen cheaply to leading edges into the off-side.
Finch, who was captain for the night after Andrew Gale was dropped to accommodate Williamson’s return, tried to thump fellow Australian John Hastings into the leg-side and was caught at backward-point, Williamson falling in near-identical manner in Hastings’s second over when he holed out to cover.
But Bairstow set about repairing the damage with Alex Lees, with whom he added 43 before Lees lobbed up to deep mid-on, and accelerated dramatically after a watchful start by clubbing off-spinner Gareth Breese for four through mid-wicket and lofting the next delivery for six over long-on, the ball narrowly missing the Media Centre windows.
Yorkshire were far from comfortable at 83-5 in the 12th over, however, having also lost Adam Lyth, bowled by one from Breese that spun sharply, and Tim Bresnan, held at deep fine-leg after hooking Hastings, who returned 3-20.
But after Bairstow went to his fifty from 39 balls, shortly after pulling Paul Collingwood for his second six, the key thrust in the innings arrived in the 17th over bowled by Usman Arshad.
The Bradford-born pace man effectively conceded 14 runs from one delivery when a no-ball hit for a leg-side six by Adil Rashid was followed by another leg-side maximum off the resulting free hit.
Arshad conceded 22 in the over, his figures of 0-51 equalling Durham’s most expensive T20 analysis by Nick Phillips against Yorkshire at Headingley in 2003.
Rashid played-on to Chris Rushworth to end a stand of 64 off 37 balls with Bairstow, who then went into overdrive.
The first three balls of the penultimate over, bowled by Breese, were hammered for huge sixes over long-on, one of which smashed into the Health Club near the pavilion.
Breese hit back by having Rich Pyrah caught at deep square-leg and running out Ollie Robinson at the non-striker’s end, which left Bairstow on 90 going into the final over, bowled by Rushworth.
After Azeem Rafiq scored a four and a single, Bairstow somehow paddled the third ball for four through third man (a gloriously inventive stroke), hit the next ball for two and pulled the penultimate delivery of the innings for six over mid-wicket to reach his century.
Bairstow scampered a bye off the final ball before running off the field to a standing ovation, his second fifty having come off just 18 deliveries.
After Bairstow’s blitz, the question for Durham was - how do you follow that?
The answer was you don’t, and Yorkshire took the momentum of his masterclass into their bowling and fielding display as they reduced the hosts to 4-2.
Williamson had Mark Stoneman caught at mid-on before Ryan Sidebottom removed dangerman Calum MacLeod, bowled trying to make room to hit through the off-side.
Rashid bowled Collingwood and Pyrah took two wickets in two balls to leave Durham 43-5 in the 10th over, Gordon Muchall driving to cover and Ryan Pringle caught behind by Bairstow.
The Pyrah/Bairstow combination also accounted for Phil Mustard with the total on 63, Pyrah finishing with fine figures of 3-19.
Bresnan had Scott Borthwick caught at mid-wicket and Sidebottom bowled Hastings in the penultimate over, Hastings providing late pyrotechnics with a T20 career-best 62 from 32 balls with five fours and four sixes.
Rafiq rounded things off by having Arshad caught at long-off and Rushworth held at mid-wicket, Durham all out for 137 with two balls to go. On any other day, Hastings’s fine all-round performance would have won him the man-of-the-match award.
But this was Bairstow’s day, his magnificent display helping Yorkshire move closer to the quarter-finals.