Jonny Bairstow’s irresistible form for England only confirms what we knew all along - Chris Waters

“THE summer of Jonny Bairstow.”

That was how Simon Mann put it on Test Match Special during the game against India at Edgbaston last week.

It was a perfectly-pitched comment that summed it up beautifully.

For what a summer it is proving for the Yorkshire star.

Jonny Bairstow of England celebrates winning the Third LV= Insurance Test Match between England and New Zealand at Headingley on June 27, 2022 in Leeds, England. (Picture: Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

The word “great” is often overused by people in my trade, but in Bairstow’s case it is utterly appropriate.

Scores of 136, 162, 71 not out, 106 and 114 not out in his last five Test innings are the product of greatness and showcased his skill.

Stretch the sequence back a little further, and Bairstow has six hundreds in his last eight Tests, including 113 in Sydney and 140 in Antigua.

This is a man in the form of his life.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 05: Joe Root and Jonathan Bairstow of England celebrate winning the Fifth LV= Insurance Test Match between England and India at Edgbaston (Picture: Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

The wonder of it, though, is not that Bairstow is churning out these numbers – no one who has watched him develop from a young lad at Yorkshire should be in the least bit surprised.

Rather, it is that until very recently – the start of the three-match series against New Zealand only last month, in fact – people have been questioning his place in the team.

It has been going on for years.

And it is utterly absurd.

England's Jonny Bairstow celebrates on day five of the fifth LV= Insurance Test Series match at Edgbaston (Picture: PA)

Bairstow, like any player, is now without flaws, ups-and-downs in form, good days and bad.

It would be wrong to put him or anyone on a pedestal – even Joe Root makes the odd mistake, and if you give me a couple of weeks, I’ll try and think of one.

But, rather like his Yorkshire colleague, Bairstow should have been one of the first names on that team-sheet for many years now.

Instead, he has been in-and-out the side, shunted around the batting order as if England were playing some demented game of musical chairs, and been with the wicketkeeping gloves one day and without them the next, messing up his head and the heads of his supporters.

England's Jonny Bairstow has clubbed five Test centuries in his last six innings (Picture: PA)

People often praise Bairstow for proving folk wrong, and they are right to do so; indeed, it is often said that he is at his best when he has something to prove.

But he should never have been in that position as often as he has, never been messed around by the England hierarchy.

Bairstow should already have over 100 Test caps (he has 87) and be regarded as one of the greatest batsmen in the world – not just in Tests, but in all formats.

Finally, at last, you hope that this recognition is falling on his shoulders and that people are waking up to the reality of the matter.

Perhaps the regime change has been a big factor.

Indeed, if anyone epitomises the concept of “Bazball”, and playing with positive freedom, then it is a man who combines technical prowess with thunderous power, even if Bairstow has always been an instinctive as opposed to technically-driven player.

The way to get the best out of him, I would offer humbly from the press seats, is essentially to let him get on with it and stay out of the way.

Indeed, this is usually the case with the very best people in any walk of life, something that the best coaches and man-managers invariably realise.

For, as we are seeing in “the summer of Jonny Bairstow”, few people know what they’re doing quite like this guy, a very great cricketer now hopefully getting the respect and recognition that is long overdue.