‘Remarkable’ Bairstow furthers his England claims at Edgbaston

Yorkshire's Jonny Bairstow.
Yorkshire's Jonny Bairstow.
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SO England head into the Ashes series having overlooked someone who has scored 744 runs in nine County Championship innings this summer at an average of 106.28.

Brace yourself for a 5-0 victory in that case because England must have some serious talent at their disposal if they can afford to leave out Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow.

Since returning from the West Indies tour in May, when he was left to languish on the sidelines along with county colleagues Adam Lyth, Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett, Bairstow has soared to the top of the First Division’s run-scorer’s chart.

He scored 108 yesterday, as Yorkshire scored 213 before Warwickshire replied with 11-2.

To be fair to the selectors, they are trying to be loyal to Ian Bell and Gary Ballance, who have struggled lately. Both are class players with proven records at the highest level.

It is difficult for them to drop Bairstow’s main rival for the wicketkeeping gloves, Jos Buttler, whose Test average stands at 52.66.

Buttler, like Bairstow, is a remarkable talent.

At the same time, the pressure on Bell and Ballance is immense, while it could be argued that Bairstow is a better wicketkeeper than Buttler and also a better Test batsman. Theoretically, of course, there is no reason why they cannot play in the same XI.

But whether as a batsman/wicketkeeper, or purely as a batsman, Bairstow’s case is growing by the day. He is not so much the next cab off the rank as a ready-made Rolls Royce waiting to be summoned from the showroom.

For the moment, England’s loss is Yorkshire’s gain, and how grateful they were for that fact here.

Without Bairstow, Yorkshire might have struggled to reach 150 after winning the toss; with him, they made sure of the comparative riches of a batting point.

In front of James Whitaker, the national selector, who might as well recommend that England select an entire Yorkshire XI and have done with it, Bairstow delivered a masterclass.

Whereas some of his colleagues struggled to cope with the swinging ball, he appeared to be playing a different game to the rest, his efforts of late reminiscent of the way that Kevin Pietersen used to dominate during his time at Notts.

Not often are Yorkshire in trouble in a Championship game, but they were when Bairstow came to the crease at 26-3 in the 12th over.

Will Rhodes had been bowled by one that cut him in two, Jack Leaning had edged to third slip, and Andrew Gale had been held at first. Chris Wright and Oliver Hannon-Dalby, the former Yorkshire bowler, had done the early damage, but they got no change out of Bairstow.

Alex Lees was stumped with the score on 55, an unfortunate end to 90 minutes of otherwise impressive resistance, but Bairstow dug in and found a fine ally in Aaron Finch, who made a hundred in the corresponding fixture last summer.

Finch has had a tough time lately – a lengthy lay-off with a hamstring injury has disturbed his rhythm – and you could sense from the sidelines his huge determination not to get out and to try to make a sizeable contribution.

That aspiration eluded him - the Australian was lbw to Rikki Clarke for 28 - but he added 74 in 22 overs with Bairstow, an important stand in the context of the day.

Bairstow did have a life on 37 – Peter McKay, standing in for first-choice wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose, who was forced to withdraw with a stomach bug, made a valiant effort to catch a leg-glance off Wright just before lunch, but he spilled the ball as he hit the turf diving full length to his left.

Had it stuck, it would have been a fabulous catch indeed.

Sadly for Tim Bresnan, he was not so fortunate.

After lunch, McKay did take a brilliant one-handed catch – this time diving to his right off Clarke – to send Bresnan on his way.

Yorkshire slipped to 170-7 when James Middlebrook flashed at Hannon-Dalby and was caught at second slip, but Bairstow carried on regardless.

The 25-year-old was particularly ruthless on anything full, several times whipping the ball to the leg-side boundary with savage simplicity, and punishing anything short and wide.

On a day when just under a quarter of the playing time was lost to the weather, Bairstow brought up his hundred after a long delay in the final session, made from 134 balls with 14 fours.

Steve Patterson was caught behind off Wright, who eventually got Bairstow when he was bowled giving it the heave-ho and then rounded off the innings by bowling Jack Brooks, finishing with figures of 5-40.

Ryan Sidebottom struck twice at the start of the hosts’ reply, Varun Chopra bowled first ball shouldering arms and Wright lbw to the third delivery.

It put Bairstow’s efforts into even greater context.