Jonny Bairstow goes through the First Test with a stylish 97 to boost England’s Ashes hopes

    Jonny Bairstow - Jonny Bairstow goes through first Test with stylish 97 to boost England's Ashes hopes - Getty Images/George Wood

Jonny Bairstow – Jonny Bairstow goes through first Test with stylish 97 to boost England’s Ashes hopes – Getty Images/George Wood

This being the sleepy environment of the Second XI Championship, there were only the smallest smattering of fans on hand to welcome Jonny Bairstow to the crease for his first bat since 26 August nearly eight months ago. When he stormed back, 97 runs and 88 balls later, there was a little more oomph to the cheer for one of Yorkshire’s favorite sons, and with good reason.

Bairstow didn’t make it into triple figures, and the quality and intensity weren’t quite where they will be in the Ashes later this summer. But this was a very positive step on Bairstow’s long way back from the horrendous broken and dislocated ankle he suffered in September.

There are still some steps to be taken – both fielding and wicket keeping in the remaining three days of this match, two league matches from next Thursday, before the Ireland Test on June 1st and Australia can be considered. 15 days later.

Some interesting selection decisions are getting ever closer for Rob Key and his team. Headingley was attended by Neil Killeen, the ECB’s elite bowling coach, and Craig de Weymarn, an English physiotherapist. White ball assistant coach Carl Hopkinson is due later this week, and many more of the national team will have followed with interest. Even if there is a selection lockout, they would love the 2022 Bairstow. He made six Test centuries before he was injured, including four in a five-innings run that saw him score 589 runs from 578 balls at an average of 196 to really ignite the bazball revolution.

There were, according to Yorkshire second team manager Tom Smith, some understandable nerves from Bairstow on the morning of his return. “It was like his debut again, obviously it was his first game for a while,” said Smith, who said Bairstow had jokingly warned his teammates to “watch the run”. His first single was snapped with a very noticeable nervous energy, which according to Smith borderline laughter.

He settled in and Bairstow got through with no apparent discomfort after a couple of hours batting against a Nottinghamshire attack of very mixed group reputation. Leading a young attack was England’s Olly Stone, who unsettled Bairstow and eventually sacked him, while a group of willing youngsters – including Rehan Ahmed’s older brother Raheem – could have challenged him for weeks without bothering him.

On the high-velocity pistol used by the Counties, Stone grazed 90mph and hit promising frontrunner Finlay Bean on the helmet, meaning his presence gave the Bairstow test some credence. Stone dropped him sharply, on 21, head first on the second miss and forced him to make a few plays and errors before catching him within range with the first ball on the third of his four spells. Taht was one of two wickets in a very encouraging display by Stone.

Comfort in the face of high pace takes getting used to and will come, because against everything else, Bairstow looked perfectly comfortable. Having arrived at the crease just before lunch, with Yorkshire 109 for two, he respectfully sought no more than a single from his first 17 ball. Once he got a taste for boundaries, he continued to roll up his sleeves. Slender seamstress Tom Loten was punished: filed over midwicket, pulled, propelled beautifully to the ground, then clipped, all in one spell. Just before Stone caught him in the trap, leg-spinner Calvin Harrison was backed onto extra cover and smashed for two sixes in an over, the first truly huge.

Smith reported that Bairstow was “He was in bits, but gutted to get out” with a century in sight.

“Once he started, it looked like he’d never been away,” Smith said. “Looking at him towards the end, the way he plays the late cut, the way he drives the ball, the way he plays the spinner, extra cover shot showed that international class.

“It doesn’t matter what level you play, time in between is time in between, you can have as many goals as you want. But when you really go out and take on bowlers like Olly Stone – we’ve got the fast gun downstairs and he’s close to 90mph – he’s going to test you. It was a really good challenge and I hope he got a lot out of it.

“He was as excited as mustard to go out and play cricket after so much free time.”

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