JONNY BAIRSTOW walked out to bat on Sunday morning looking like a man who had read an article in one of the morning’s newspapers which said that England are considering taking the wicketkeeping gloves off him for the forthcoming Test series against Pakistan.
The article – for the same stable for whom Bairstow is a columnist – said that the move would “not necessarily please” the Yorkshireman, which was a bit like saying that Joe Root would be unhappy if England suddenly took the Test captaincy off him, or Eoin Morgan displeased if he was suddenly deposed as one-day skipper.
Bairstow is as proud of his wicketkeeping as he is of his batting – and quite rightly too, having barely put a foot wrong behind the stumps in recent times.
Although any such move would be designed to maximise his impact as a batsman, with Bairstow instead selected as a top-order specialist and the gloves given to Surrey’s Ben Foakes, the man himself would regard it with all the enthusiasm of a kick in the teeth, which is exactly what it would represent should it turn out to be one of Ed Smith’s first major decisions as national selector, not to mention the height of folly.
Whether Bairstow was cognisant of the article before his blistering innings of 95 is unclear, but he immediately savaged the Surrey bowling after entering the fray when Root perished to the final ball of the day’s first over, lbw to Sam Curran as he attempted to work to leg.
Bairstow creamed seven boundaries from his first 16 balls, five of them off pace bowler Jade Dernbach, after arriving with Yorkshire 41-4 in reply to Surrey’s first innings total of 414.
The carnage abated slightly –but only slightly – when the fifth wicket fell, that of Harry Brook, who was caught behind off Curran, pushing forward.
That ended a coruscating stand of 47 in 5.3 overs to which Bairstow contributed 32, the wicketkeeper mixing powerful pull strokes with devastating drives to put pressure on to the Surrey attack.
But as wickets continued to tumble around him, Bairstow’s innings – which spanned 94 balls and contained 14 fours before he was ninth out – was not enough to prevent Yorkshire from avoiding the follow-on.
The visitors were dismissed for 229, with No 10 batsman Josh Shaw’s career-best equalling 29 the next-highest score as Curran captured 6-54 to become, aged 19 years and 344 days, the fourth-youngest Surrey bowler to reach 100 first-class wickets behind Jack Crawford, Martin Bicknell and Waqar Younis.
Curran, who also became the fourth-youngest Surrey player to be capped after Vivian Crawford, Donald Knight and Waqar when he received the honour during the lunch interval, swung the ball at pace with his whippy left-arm.
He picked up a wicket in the second innings too, uprooting the middle stump of a driving Cheteshwar Pujara before Yorkshire closed day three on 142-5, 43 behind, with Bairstow back at the crease once more, unbeaten on 25, and Jack Leaning undefeated on 13.
After the final two sessions on Saturday had been lost to rain, Surrey seemed anxious to make up for lost time as they set about the Yorkshire first innings with renewed gusto.
The early departures of Root and Brook gave them a solid platform, although they were held up by a sixth-wicket stand of 67 between Bairstow and Leaning before the latter fell lbw to Rikki Clarke in almost identical manner to Root earlier, trying to work towards the on-side.
Yorkshire slipped to 158-7 when Curran had a driving Tim Bresnan caught at second slip and to 183-8 when Steve Patterson was smartly caught by Ollie Pope in the gully off Clarke.
Bairstow – dropped on 66 by Dernbach off his own bowling – finally fell when he aimed a fierce off-drive at the same bowler and was held at slip, the Yorkshire innings ending when Shaw edged Curran to third slip.
Trailing by 185, Yorkshire were soon in distress in the follow-on as Alex Lees edged Dernbach to second slip and Curran removed Pujara for no score, leaving the total 10-2. Adam Lyth and Root added 56 in 23 overs before Root was drawn forward by 19-year-old off-spinner Amar Virdi and bowled through the gate.
Virdi might have removed Brook on five but Foakes missed a difficult stumping opportunity, although the spinner soon had his second wicket when Lyth prodded to slip, ending a good innings of 58 from 130 deliveries with seven boundaries.
Virdi did not have to wait much longer for the wicket of Brook, who went back and was adjudged lbw, but Foakes missed a second – and much easier – stumping chance when Virdi deceived Leaning, suggesting that Bairstow’s current Test wicket-keeping understudy might not be as infallible as some seem to think.