As Jonny Bairstow entered the hotel lobby on Sunday morning before going to play cricket he was beckoned. The National Selector himself wanted a word. Bairstow wondered what he could possibly want, which does not perhaps say a great deal for his deductive powers.
Then again, Geoff Miller was not hiring him as a detective, he was inviting him to bat for England in a Test match for the first time. "I didn't really know what it was about so to get that news was fantastic," said Bairstow yesterday, as he recounted that moment when a boyhood dream became something more substantial. "He explained a few different areas of play and things he had noted over a few weeks and then said that I was in the squad."
It is possible, if they have taken leave of their senses, that the captain, Andrew Strauss, and the coach, Andy Flower, into whose hands the squad of 13 has now been placed to do with as they want, will leave Bairstow out of the starting XI against West Indies at Lord's. But in the prevailing conditions and given England's winter batting cock-ups it is beyond logic.
Bairstow will become the 652nd England Test cricketer, the 78th from Yorkshire and the 13th to have had a father who also played. David Bairstow played four Tests for England between 1979 and 1981, one of them at Lord's and two of them against a West Indies team which was a rather different proposition than the one Jonny is likely to encounter this week.
It will obviously be a poignant moment. Bairstow's father took his own life when the boy was seven years old. Jonny became an all-round sportsmen as his father had been before him, outstanding at rugby, football and hockey at St Peter's School, York.
"It will be the same as every other day – there is a guy at the other end with a ball in his hand and you have got to face it," he said, downplaying the scale of it. "It will be a proud moment if selected and the family will be very proud. But at end of the day it is another game of cricket."
The match will be Bairstow's maiden first-class appearance at Lord's. In his only previous innings, in a one-day match for Yorkshire against Middlesex last August, he made 118 from 87 balls.
It is not, however, as a ground specialist that the selectors have opted for him above a crop of other young batsmen including James Taylor and Ben Stokes, whose cause continues to be hampered by injury. Bairstow has made two hundreds already this season, including an exemplary 182 in testing circumstances at Scarborough, and last week for England Lions made 50 when the side was in a spot of bother. His temperament as well as his skill came into the reckoning.
"It is something that has kind of happened and I have not really thought about," he said. "It is a good attribute. You don't want someone that cries off when the chips are down. It is that inner grit and determination that you are going to get out of this situation whether that be the easy or hard way."
One of Bairstow's chief mentors throughout his life has been Geoffrey Boycott, one of Yorkshire and England's most illustrious batsmen, who was a firm friend of Bairstow's father. When Jonny made his one-day international debut at Cardiff last year, it was Boycott who presented him with his cap and it would be fitting if he did so again on Thursday.
"Mum got a call from his wife yesterday but I haven't spoken to him. Geoffrey is very much if you want to speak to him you can. I'm very grateful to have someone like that as a family friend. But I haven't picked his brains, especially coming into this week. It is possible I could speak to him if I wanted to."
Boycott is an admirer as well as a friend and has made it plain that a long international career could await Bairstow. If the pair do talk before this initial foray, Boycott may mention that there will be no West Indian fast bowling on display at the other end by comparison with what he had to deal with.
While Bairstow is at the start of his international career, Jimmy Anderson is at the peak of his and was yesterday, correctly, named as the England Cricketer of the Year. He took 46 wickets in 11 Test matches, and 18 in 12 ODIs, both coincidentally at an average of 25.83. "The last two years I've shown what I can do at this level," Anderson said. "It's been a frustrating eight years before that, up and down. Knowing my game has been the biggest thing. Knowing I can bowl a ball on a length for a period of time is what all bowlers strive for and is something that was missing for the first part of my career."
Generation game: fathers and sons who played for England
Fred and Maurice Tate
Fred played his only match in 1902 and was last man out in a tense three-run defeat by Australia. "I've got a boy at home who'll put it all right for me," he said, and so Maurice did with 155 wickets in 39 Tests.
Joe Hardstaff Snr and Jnr
Joe Snr played five Tests in the early 1900s, Joe Jnr 23 with more success four decades later, including 205 not out at Lord's in the first Test after the Second World War.
Charlie and David Townsend
Charlie played two matches against Australia in 1899 and David three in the West Indies in 1935 – the last player to be picked for England who did not play for a county.
Frank and George Mann
Frank Mann played five matches in the early 1920s, all of them as captain, and George seven in the Forties, also all as captain, a unique record.
Jim Parks Snr and Jnr
Jim Snr played one Test in 1937, but his son was a regular part of the side in the 1960s, becoming a keeper-batsman who made 46 appearances.
Len and Richard Hutton
The father was one of England's most illustrious batsmen, the first professional captain of the 20th Century, Richard, a handy all-rounder, played five times in 1971.
Colin and Chris Cowdrey
Both were captain of England, though in Chris's case it was for just one of the six Tests he played, compared to his legendary dad's 27 in 114 matches.
Micky and Alec Stewart
Alec is England's most capped Test player with 133 appearances, his father who became England's first manager, played eight times in the early 1960s.
Jeff and Simon Jones
Injury curtailed the Test careers of both these fast bowlers, Jeff after 15 caps, Simon after 18, though he had the consolation of helping to win the 2005 Ashes.
Arnie and Ryan Sidebottom
The father played his solitary Test towards the end of a long county career and Ryan had to wait six years before he added to his first cap, becoming a reliable left-arm swinger who played 22 times.
Alan and Mark Butcher
Alan played one match against India at The Oval in 1979, Mark was more durable with 71 Tests, starting in 1997, which brought eight hundreds.
Chris and Stuart Broad
Perhaps the most successful pair, since both appeared in Ashes-winning sides, Chris scoring six hundreds in 25 appearances and Stuart with 45 caps already.Reuse content