It has taken James Anderson and Stuart Broad almost a decade to crack the Headingley code – but they did so with a vengeance to cash in on Jonny Bairstow’s century as they bowled Sri Lanka out for just 91.
England’s outstanding pace pair have been scratching their heads for nine years to work out why they have not been as successful as they might hope at a venue which should be right up their street.
The answer turned out to be embarrassingly simple too, for Anderson especially, as after a change of ends – he from the Football Ground instead of Kirkstall Lane, and Broad vice-versa – they shared nine wickets for 37 runs.
Sri Lanka were duly shot out in 36.4 overs to concede a first-innings deficit of 207 and find themselves following on by the close of day two in this first Investec Test.
“We’ve hated the place for nine years, so we thought we might as well change ends ... that’s how deeply we think about it ...!” Anderson said, with a smile. “We’ve just had a chat and said ‘it’s taken us nine years to realise we’ve been bowling at the wrong end’.
“We’ve had very, very little success here – our (ground) records are pretty poor.
“So we just thought ‘why not give it a go – there’s nothing to lose really?’”
Broad’s historical Headingley returns are, in fact, more favourable than Anderson’s – including a hat-trick in the defeat against these same opponents two years ago – but the Lancastrian at least is not complaining after finishing with 5-16, having never previously taken more than three in an innings.
“We’re delighted we’ve eventually figured it out, and got some rewards today,” he added.
“The pitch is very different to a normal Headingley one – there’s a bit more in it for the bowlers. When it’s swinging like that, that’s my ideal conditions. I find it a lot of fun.”
Bairstow, arguably, had even more to smile about after making 140 out of England’s 298 – his second Test hundred, and first on the home ground where his late father and fellow Yorkshire wicketkeeper David played for many years – and then holding five catches.
“It’s one of those days that won’t come round too many times, I wouldn’t think,” he said.
“There’s no better place to do it than at your home ground ... it’s been a while coming.”
Bairstow’s mother Janet, who is on the administration staff at Headingley, was present – as when he made his first Test hundred at Cape Town four months ago.
“Mum was here, just up on the third floor – I knew exactly where she was,” he said.
“To make a hundred at your home ground, the history and the heritage not just that Yorkshire and England have here but also family-wise, it’s really pleasing.
“I’m sure mum will have had a glass of wine this afternoon to celebrate.”
Bairstow is relishing his second chance at Test cricket, having had to wait his turn.
“There’s obviously been a lot of hard work over many years,” he said. “I was in the side, got dropped, came back, then didn’t get picked again.
“You learn a lot about yourself when you’re out of the side, wanting to get back to where you potentially could have been.
“It’s a big learning curve ... accepting you potentially didn’t make the most of it.”