HOME has never seemed sweeter than it did for Jonny Bairstow yesterday, the Yorkshireman producing a brilliant all-round performance to help England seize control of the Headingley Test.
Bairstow scored 140 as England made 298 in their first innings and then took five catches as Sri Lanka were dismissed for 91 and forced to follow-on, reaching 1-0 before bad light ended play with 18.4 overs remaining.
Bairstow was only the second Englishman to score a hundred and take five dismissals in a Test innings after Matt Prior, who performed the feat against Australia at Sydney in 2011 and against New Zealand at Auckland in 2013.
It was Bairstow’s second Test century after his breakthrough 150 not out against South Africa at Cape Town in January, and he was watched by his mother, Janet, the Yorkshire CCC cricket administrator, along with a number of friends in the West Stand, who entered into the spirit of the occasion by wearing Bairstow face masks and ginger wigs.
Asked what it meant to score a Test hundred at his home venue, in front of 13,173 spectators, Bairstow replied: “It’s pretty difficult to put into words; it’s not really sunk in.
“Obviously, the Cape Town knock was very special for many, many reasons, and to make a hundred at your home ground, and the history and heritage that not just Yorkshire have and England have here but family-wise as well, it’s really pleasing.
“The really pleasing thing for me was to back up the winter.
“There was a lot of speculation about this, that and the other, but to come off the start of the season and to start strongly for England was something that I really wanted to do.
“There’s no better place than doing it at your home ground. I missed out on a hundred here in the Test against New Zealand a few years ago and was a bit cheesed off not to go further forward on that occasion.”
Bairstow, who faced 183 balls and hit 13 fours and a six, has been in magnificent form for Yorkshire this year.
His previous scores at Headingley this season were 246, 5 and 198, and he has continued from where he left off last year, when he scored 1,108 Championship runs at 92.
Bairstow was the seventh Yorkshireman to score a Test century at Headingley after Geoffrey Boycott (four times), Len Hutton (three), Stanley Jackson, Michael Vaughan, Joe Root and Adam Lyth.
The 26-year-old has worked tirelessly to claim a regular Test place after a previously fractured England career.
“I was in the side for a little bit and then got dropped, and you learn a lot about yourself when you’re out of the team,” he said.
“You’re learning, and you’re wanting to get back to where you potentially could have been, and it’s a big learning curve not only on the field, but off the field as well.
“I’m sure there’s not many players who go on to have successful international careers who don’t have a blip at some point and are not left out at some point.
“In recent times, things have clicked into place, and hopefully that can continue.”
Bairstow paid tribute to his team-mates after England’s bowlers built on the platform he helped to create.
James Anderson took 5-16 from 11.4 overs – including 4-1 from his last 29 balls – and Stuart Broad 4-21 from 10 overs, the pair switching from their usual ends as Anderson operated from the Rugby Stand end and Broad from the Kirkstall Lane side.
“Me and Stuart had a chat and said it’s taken us nine years to realise we’ve been bowling at the wrong ends here,” quipped Anderson, whose previous best Test figures at Leeds were 3-91 in the corresponding game two years ago.
“We’ve hated the place for nine years, so we thought we might as well change ends.”
Of Bairstow’s performance, Anderson said: “We saw Jonny’s form in the winter in South Africa was fantastic, and it’s great that he’s carried on that form and improved on it even with Yorkshire and now with us.
“What we needed in our team was not to rely on Alastair Cook and Joe Root, which we have done for a decent period of time, and now we’ve got other guys who are putting their hands up.”
Bairstow’s show of strength, skill and flair: Page 5.