AS one of a select group who have scored 99 in a Test match but never a century, Martyn Moxon knows more than most what Jonny Bairstow’s maiden Test hundred would have meant to him.
Bairstow hit 150 not out against South Africa in Cape Town, finally achieving a three-figure score in his 22nd Test and 37th innings.
Moxon, who swept three runs off the middle of the bat early in his innings against New Zealand at Auckland in 1988, only for the umpire to signal leg-byes, could not have come closer to achieving the landmark himself.
Having long championed Bairstow and played an important role in his development at Yorkshire, the county’s director of cricket is proud of the 26-year-old and believes he will go from strength to strength.
“I’m thrilled for Jonny, and I think he’ll really kick on now and become an established part of that Test team,” said Moxon.
“Now Jonny feels part of it, he’ll be able to relax and play more like we’ve seen him play for Yorkshire, instead of being worried about getting out or being dropped.
“I think we’re starting to see that now, and that century was almost like a weight being lifted off his shoulders.
“You see him smiling and playing more like we know he can for Yorkshire.”
Moxon was among the many to send congratulatory messages after Bairstow reached three-figures in Cape Town.
It is difficult to remember a more emotional hundred by an England player, with Bairstow appearing to fight back tears as he looked to the heavens in memory of his late father and grandfather.
“It was emotional because you think of what the lad’s gone through,” said Moxon, who played with Bairstow’s father, David.
“Also, because you know the frustrations and disappointments that Jonny’s had along the way in his career, with him being in-and-out of the England team.
“I contacted him and he said it was the best day of his life.
“It meant a lot to him, there’s no doubt about it.”
Moxon subscribed to the general view that the South Africa series was always going to be key for Bairstow.
He had not yet nailed down his place, but the faith invested in him by England coach Trevor Bayliss, who said prior to the series that he would get a run in the side as a batsman/wicketkeeper, has paid off, with Bairstow scoring 41 and 79 in the first Test in Durban and then a typically fighting 30 not out as England secured a draw in Cape Town.
“It’s been an outstanding couple of games for him,” said Moxon.
“You probably couldn’t have written the script much better from his point of view.
“He’s contributed in every innings and looked very good at the crease.
“He’s been given a chance and taken it.”
Moxon acknowledges Bairstow is not yet the finished article behind the stumps, but he believes there has been too much criticism of his glove work.
“Jonny’s made a couple of errors behind the stumps, which have been highlighted, and he’s got to try and eliminate those,” said Moxon.
“At the same time, I thought the stumping chance he missed in Durban was tough, and I think he’s a more than a capable wicketkeeper.
“Jonny dropped a catch in Cape Town, but Farby (England assistant coach Paul Farbrace) made the point afterwards that 99 per cent of the time, over the 200 overs at Newlands, Jonny was excellent.
“It’s a bit like a goalkeeper, in that any mistake a wicketkeeper makes is highlighted.”
There is no reason why Bairstow should not silence his critics, just as he has silenced them with his batting.
Matt Prior, for example, missed a number of chances behind the stumps early in his career.
For now, the most important thing is that Bairstow has a firm foothold in the Test team on the back of that brilliant century.
Adding to the emotion, his mother, Janet, and sister, Becky, were there to see it, with Janet a popular figure at Yorkshire CCC in her role as cricket administrator.
“I’m really pleased for Janet,” said Moxon.
“As a parent, you go through the mill, you feel everything.
“The disappointment of Jonny being in-and-out of the England side, seeing him dropped, questions being asked about his ability and that kind of criticism, it’s hard to take as a parent.
“For her, it would have been a great moment and very emotional.”
Inevitably, thoughts turned to the memory of David Bairstow as Jonny looked to the Cape Town skies on reaching three figures.
Moxon considers himself fortunate to have worked with both men.
“David was a good player, and a lot of his best innings were when the team needed it; he was very similar to Jonny in that respect,” he said.
“David loved that challenge of when the team were in trouble, he was the one who was going to get them out of it, and, again, Jonny’s very similar.
“From a pure batting point of view, though, Jonny is head and shoulders above his dad.
“He really is an outstanding talent.”