JONNY BAIRSTOW says he is relishing the start of the Test summer and a new era under captain Joe Root.
England play the first of four Tests against South Africa at Lord’s from next Thursday followed by a three-match series against West Indies.
The Lord’s game is also Root’s first as Test captain after he was appointed in place of Alastair Cook.
Speaking on day three of Yorkshire’s day/night County Championship match against Surrey at Headingley, on which no play was possible due to rain, Bairstow looked ahead to the sunnier prospect of the Tests to come.
“There’s a great excitement about next week and the first Test at Lord’s against South Africa,” he said.
“We saw how much of a thrilling series it was in South Africa last time, and there’s no reason why it can’t be replicated here.
“It’s the start of the Test summer, and when you walk into the Lord’s ground and hear the band playing, or when you drive in and see the queue of people that are just about to walk into the Members’ Stand and things like that, they’re the special things that you don’t forget.”
One man unlikely to forget the experience is Root, who makes his captaincy debut at the home of cricket.
The Yorkshireman’s appointment is exciting and he will adopt a positive style that mirrors his batting.
“It’s something that’s really exciting him,” said Bairstow.
I know that, as a side, we’re really looking forward to playing under him, and there’s going to be people around him he can bounce things offJonny Bairstow
“I know that, as a side, we’re really looking forward to playing under him, and there’s going to be people around him he can bounce things off – guys who have played over 100 Test matches, and so on.
“He’s going to put his own stamp and his own authority on it, and that’s really encouraging.
“I’m sure he’ll do a brilliant job.”
Bairstow also acknowledged the job being done by Yorkshire’s Gary Ballance, who could yet join him and Root in the Test XI at Lord’s.
Ballance has pressed an increasingly compelling case for an international recall this summer, scoring 815 Championship runs at an average of 101.87, and he will lead England Lions in their three-day fixture against South Africa at Worcester, starting today.
“Gaz’s form is second to none,” said Bairstow.
“He’s scored a serious amount of runs this season for Yorkshire, just as he’s scored a serious amount of runs over a long period of time.
“You really can’t argue with his stats.
“We don’t know what the (England) selection is going to be, but Gaz is a serious player and a class act.”
Ballance did not get a chance to bat against the pink ball in Yorkshire’s ongoing Championship match, which finishes today.
Bairstow says the players have embraced the concept, which is being trialled for the first time in a round of Championship games.
“The players have bought into it wholeheartedly and will continue to do so,” he said.
“I think it’s an exciting place for us to be.
“In this game, the pink ball swung for a little bit and then stopped swinging, and it seemed pretty soft – almost like a bowling machine ball, to be honest.
“It’s the first time it’s taken effect (in the Championship), and I think pink ball cricket is going to come in more and more.”
The reason behind this week’s round of games was to help England players such as Bairstow prepare for the first pink-ball Test in this country against West Indies at Edgbaston in August.
As to whether it is the way forward for Test cricket per se, Bairstow said: “We’re very fortunate in this country that we sell out Test matches during the day, and whether or not we’re conducive to playing day/night Test cricket in England, or whether we need to, is for people above me to decide.
“However, in Australia, the weather is good and we know that with everything that’s gone on with the Big Bash that they get the crowds in the evenings and sell out Test matches more than they do in the day.
“I don’t know whether there will be flexibility with it from country to country, how it’s going to work in different areas of the world, and so on.
“It will be interesting to see what happens, and at the end of the day we want Test cricket to be around as long as possible.”
Bairstow, one of the world’s top players in all three formats of the sport, is ready for whatever challenges come his way.
He adopts a philosophical approach to the colour of the ball.
“It doesn’t make a difference to me whether it’s a red ball, white ball, pink ball, green ball, whatever,” he said.
“At the end of the day, the pitch is still 22 yards long, and you’ve still got someone propelling it quickly enough at you.”