Jonny Bairstow celebrated his Ashes call-up with a quick-fire innings which helped propel Yorkshire to a seven-wicket victory over Worcestershire on the final day of the LV= County Championship match at Scarborough.
It was the first time since 1998 that Yorkshire had won five consecutive matches in a season in the competition and it further strengthened the title-holders’ position at the top of the table.
But Worcestershire made them fight every inch of the way for their success and for a while they were even able to contemplate victory themselves as the home side slumped to 44-3 in their chase towards a 157 target.
But then Bairstow, in the best form of his career and brimming with confidence, strode to the crease and impressed with top quality shots to all parts of the North Marine Road ground.
Bairstow battered an unbeaten 74 off 51 balls with nine fours and three sixes during an unbroken fourth-wicket stand of 113 in 17 overs with opener Alex Lees, who finished on 58no from 87 deliveries with seven fours and two sixes. Bairstow has now thrashed 908 runs at an average of 108.88 in his 12 Championship knocks with one double-century, four centuries and four half-centuries.
After Worcestershire had been bowled out for 306, the second highest second innings score against Yorkshire this season, they soon claimed a wicket as Will Rhodes skied Saeed Ajmal’s second ball to deep mid-on where Jack Shantry held on to a well-judged catch.
Yorkshire were 34-1 at lunch, Lees having driven Joe Leach for an early six, but soon after the interval they suffered a double setback, Jack Leaning being trapped lbw by Charlie Morris and captain Andrew Gale run out when sent back by Lees.
With light rain falling for a short while, Bairstow went on the charge, driving Ajmal over long-on for six and being so eager to advance that he chased a delivery which slipped out of Morris’s hand and bounced several times wide on the off-side before belting it through the covers for four.
Bairstow hit three fours off consecutive balls from Ajmal and successive boundaries against Shantry, bringing up his half-century from 79 balls with five fours and two sixes.
Both Bairstow and Lees cleared the rope again as Lees completed his first 50 in 14 Championship innings off 79 deliveries, and it was all over by mid-afternoon with 47 overs to spare.
Resuming on 221-6 in the morning with a lead of 71, Worcestershire continued to take the fight to their opponents.
Ross Whiteley moved his overnight 65 on to 101 before falling lbw to Ryan Sidebottom soon after the new ball had been taken. He had faced 139 balls and struck 14 fours and a six on his way to his best score for Worcestershire and his highest since his career best 130 not out for Derbyshire against Kent at Derby in September 2011.
Even with his departure to make it 280-9, Worcestershire were not entirely finished as Ajmal and Morris put on 26 together for the last wicket. It meant that Yorkshire still had some work to do and there were anxious moments ahead until Bairstow and Lees settled in.
Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie, said: “Obviously I am very pleased to come away with full points but this was still not our best performance, I have to acknowledge that. We had one big partnership in the first innings and a century stand in the second but we have still not nailed our partnerships.
“I thought we were poor with the ball on the third day before just making our opponents follow-on and we have to focus on the process of how to get it right. We seem to drift sometimes when we take our foot off the gas. It is a nice position to be in at the top of the table but there is still a lot of cricket to be played and we have six games remaining. We need to make sure we maintain our standards and respect the form we are in even though we are not at our best. The race for the Championship is not over yet and we can only control what we do and not what other teams do.
“It was another great knock today from Jonny Bairstow and we all wish him well and hope he scores lots of runs for England. He is playing good cricket, the ball is in his court and I am delighted he has got his opportunity.”
LV= County Championship Division One, at Scarborough. Yorkshire 430 & 157-3: Bairstow 74 not out, Lees 58 not out. Worcestershire 281 & 306 (f-o): Whiteley 101; Brooks 3-41, Plunkett 2-26. Yorkshire won by seven wickets. Yorkshire 24 pts, Worcestershire 5 pts.