Bairstow thrives on return to action for Yorkshire

Yorkshire's Jonny Bairstow celebrates his half-century at Headingley yesterday. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWPIX.COM
Yorkshire's Jonny Bairstow celebrates his half-century at Headingley yesterday. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWPIX.COM
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JONNY BAIRSTOW had no right to do what he did yesterday.

The Yorkshireman had not picked up a bat in anger for nearly seven weeks.

He had spent much of his time on the England tour of the West Indies carrying drinks.

Bairstow had been overlooked for all three Test matches in the Caribbean.

He had only arrived back in England last week.

In a classic example of the crazy schedule, Bairstow had then gone straight to Ireland for a one-day international on Friday.

By rights, he should have been tired, disoriented and out for next-to-nothing.

Instead he played one of his finest and most fluent innings, scoring 102 to help Yorkshire to 333-7.

Bairstow’s 12th first-class hundred, which came from just 104 balls with 11 fours and three sixes, changed the tone and tempo of the day.

When he came to the crease on a grey afternoon, which threatened rain but never delivered on that threat, Yorkshire were 109-3 and had just lost Adam Lyth for 53.

Moments later, they lost captain Andrew Gale also, sliding to 114-4 after Gale had won the toss on a sunny morning.

At that stage, the day was in the balance and Hampshire would have hoped to dismiss the champions cheaply.

As it was, Bairstow and Jack Leaning combined in a stand that steered Yorkshire to a total that may yet prove commanding, adding 155 in 32 overs before Bairstow was caught behind off pace bowler Andre Adams.

Leaning also played a splendid hand and contributed the second-highest score of 77 not out, made from 163 balls with nine fours, to maintain an equally splendid start to a season that brought him his maiden first-class century last month against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.

Lyth, who had also not raised a bat in anger for nearly seven weeks, after being overlooked on the West Indies tour too, looked a tad rustier than Bairstow, but that said more for Bairstow’s brilliance than anything else.

Lyth also went caught behind off Adams having done enough to suggest he has reason for optimism ahead of Thursday’s squad announcement for the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s, where he hopes to make his Test debut under England’s interim coach Paul Farbrace.

Bairstow’s immediate international ambitions are contingent on him performing well for Yorkshire, and here was a real statement of intent from the 25-year-old who, on his day, is as dynamic a batsman as anyone in the country.

“Any time that you get to go out for Yorkshire is a privilege, and to score a hundred is always fantastic,” said Bairstow, whose solitary innings on the West Indies trip was 98 against a St Kitts Invitational XI in Basseterre.

“I haven’t done it for a while –I only got one hundred last year, which annoyed me quite a lot, and I didn’t go on to get the runs that I potentially should have done – so to start off this year like I have done is pleasing.

“It was obviously different conditions coming back from the West Indies, so it was pretty challenging.

“I was pleased with the way that I struck the ball and the movements that I had.”

From the moment he got off the mark with a lovely cover-driven boundary off James Tomlinson, Bairstow was in remarkable groove given his lack of cricket.

Fidel Edwards, the former West Indies pace bowler making his Hampshire debut, perhaps remembered how Bairstow’s technique against the short ball had been heavily scrutinised when their paths had crossed in Test cricket three years earlier, but Bairstow is a much better player than he was back then.

One short ball from Edwards was treated with such contempt that it was pulled over the boundary into the North East Stand, scattering spectators as surely as if a bomb alert had been announced over the public address system.

Another short ball was pulled savagely for four to the foot of the East Stand, and another hooked for yet another maximum.

Bairstow’s driving through the off-side was out of the top drawer, his clips through the leg-side similarly so, and his instinctive feel for injecting pace into the proceedings impeccable.

It was an innings that exuded great natural talent.

It was important, too, with the loss of Lyth and Gale – the latter held by a diving Michael Carberry at point off a leading edge off Adams – preceded by that of Alex Lees and Cheteshwar Pujara.

Lees shouldered arms to the 13th ball of the morning and was lbw to Tomlinson, while Pujara fell cheaply when he pushed Tomlinson to Sean Ervine at second slip.

Pujara’s Championship innings so far read 0, 57, 23, 33 and 18, with the Indian searching hard for a sizeable score.

Bairstow’s departure with the total at 269 was swiftly followed by that of Adil Rashid, caught at mid-on by Edwards off Gareth Berg, and then by that of Will Rhodes, who edged Berg to Ervine at first slip.

But Leaning and Tim Bresnan came together and further frustrated the visitors with an unbroken stand of 54.