Yorkshire's Jonny Bairstow happy to keep fighting fires for England
In recent times, Bairstow has consistently dug Yorkshire out of trouble in the County Championship.
He has often come in with three wickets down for not many runs on the board and completely transformed the complexion of the match, scoring run-a-ball hundreds that have helped the club to win back-to-back titles.
Already this summer, Bairstow has performed his Red Adair (the legendary oil well fire fighter) act in three of his five first-class games.
In Yorkshire’s opening Championship match of the season, against Hampshire at Headingley, the hosts were 41-3 only for Bairstow to crash a career-best 246 to help them to a final total of 593-9 declared.
In the match against Surrey at Headingley, Yorkshire were 45-3 only for Bairstow to hit 198 to help them to 557-6 declared, in the process sharing a club record fourth-wicket stand of 372 with Joe Root.
And, in last week’s Headingley Test, England were 83-5 before Bairstow struck 140 to help them to 298 and an innings victory, the 26-year-old sharing a stand of 141 with Alex Hales, who made 86.
It follows multiple similar instances in 2015, when Bairstow hit 1,108 Championship runs at 92, with the Yorkshireman relishing the battle when the going gets tough.
Asked why he consistently thrives in such situations, Bairstow replied: “I don’t really know, to be honest. I can’t really put my finger on anything.
“It’s not something I go out thinking, ‘I love these situations’, because being 400-2, I would plenty rather that every day of the week.
“I don’t know what it is. There’s just something about it, I just enjoy it. I don’t really think about the game or the situation too much.
“Keeping things as simple as I can, and trying to build a partnership like I did with Alex Hales, is important.
“He played outstandingly well and grafted really hard, and everyone was desperately disappointed for him that he fell just short (of a maiden Test hundred).
“That partnership, and the way that we ran and things like that, was really pleasing.
“Running between the wickets can be an area that can put the opposition under pressure.”
Amid the headline detail of his match-winning display against Sri Lanka, it is easy to overlook that Bairstow started his innings with two quickly-run threes.
He scampered a three square through the offside of Nuwan Pradeep and then another three punched through the covers off the same bowler, thereby putting pressure back on Sri Lanka before he had scored the first of his 14 boundaries.
“I was blowing (after those threes),” joked Bairstow. “It’s not a good way to start your innings after being sat down for a while, but, in all seriousness, two threes to kick you off certainly gets your blood going.
“It’s not all about big shots and things like that. It’s not just about running down the pitch and hitting the ball for six.”
England head to Chester-le-Street for Friday’s second Test, a ground that holds plenty of happy memories for Bairstow.
Last year, in one of his most memorable rescue acts to date, he scored an unbeaten 219 against Durham to help Yorkshire from 191-6 to 557-6 declared, sharing a county cricket record seventh-wicket stand of 366 with Tim Bresnan, who hit a career-best, undefeated 169.
In 2014, Bairstow hammered a 57-ball hundred at Chester-le-Street in a T20 game against Durham and, last year, he clinched the one-day series against New Zealand at the ground with an unbeaten 83 in yet another salvage operation after England were 40-4 when he came in chasing a revised target of 192.
“It’s a great place to go and play and I enjoy it there,” said Bairstow, who was also part of the England side that won the 2013 Ashes Test at Chester-le-Street.
“I’ve had some great memories there over the years – last year the partnership with Brez and also the ODI, and the Ashes Test there as well.
“I’m excited about going up there, and I’m sure there’ll be some crazy people up north like there were some crazy people on the Western Terrace last week, and I’m sure it will be a great spectacle.”
Bairstow heads north on the back of a hundred plus nine catches against Sri Lanka at Headingley – the first English wicketkeeper to perform that double in a Test match.
“It was very special,” he reflected. “It was my first Test match in England keeping wicket, my first hundred in England in the Test side, and my 25th Test cap in front of my home crowd.
“It was fantastic and something I’ll never forget.”