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Jonny Bairstow falls three short of a century on his return from injury

The England batter made his comeback from a leg break for Yorkshire’s second XI

Rory Dollard
Tuesday 25 April 2023 17:53 BST
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Jonny Bairstow in action on his Yorkshire 2nd XI comeback (Danny Lawson/PA)
Jonny Bairstow in action on his Yorkshire 2nd XI comeback (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

Jonny Bairstow fell three short of a dashing century on his first outing in almost eight months, picking up where he left off last summer in a low-key comeback for Yorkshire’s second XI.

Coming in at number four, Bairstow cracked 97 in just 88 deliveries, with 13 boundaries and two sixes, before hammering fellow England international Olly Stone to cover with a hundred in sight.

The 33-year-old has not played since a freak golfing accident last September left him with three separate fractures in his left leg as well as a dislocated ankle and ligament damage, but took the biggest step yet on what has been a long and arduous recovery.

Bairstow was in the midst of a career-best run of form when injury struck, taking a leading role in England’s Test renaissance with four hundreds in five innings, and he was back amongst the runs on day one against Nottinghamshire’s second string at Headingley.

Even allowing for a few signs of ring rust after 241 days out, he was a cut above the standard of most of the Nottinghamshire attack but found himself in a more serious tussle with Stone. Like Bairstow, the former Warwickshire quick has designs on a role in the forthcoming Ashes series, and he was unlucky to have Bairstow dropped on 21.

His third delivery to Bairstow flew off the outside edge at shoulder height and should have been taken at second slip, only for Calvin Harrison to parry the chance for four.

Stone, watched from the sidelines by the England and Wales Cricket Board’s elite pace bowling coach Neil Killeen, took one for seven from his first five overs, hassled Bairstow more than once in his second spell and removed him with the first ball of his third. His chances of joining the batter on the field against Australia in the coming months cannot have been harmed.

Bairstow has already been effectively promised his place back by head coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes, though there has been some speculation about where he will slot in.

By coming in at four he appeared to put down a marker for his preferred middle order berth, further diminishing the fanciful idea that he could make a late conversion to Test opener, and he arrived at the crease in the 25th over at 109 for two.

He faced just eight balls before lunch, but breezed to fifty in the afternoon session, taking just 47 deliveries. Bairstow’s attacking repertoire got a workout, flicking former Tyke Tom Loten over midwicket for four, threading regular shots to the unguarded third man boundary and easing an on-drive with expert timing towards the Howard Stand.

Not everything was fully controlled, an edge off Toby Pettman sailing through the recently vacated slip area and an uncontrolled chip shot only just landing safe, but for the most part Bairstow was in charge.

The arrival of Harrison’s leg-spin allowed him to shift up a gear, with one slog sweep landing in the seats of the East Stand and another disappearing over wide long-on.

By then a century seemed almost inevitable, but the return of Stone brought instant rewards as Bairstow looked to get on top of a shorter ball outside off stump only to find Harrison’s hands at cover.

Bairstow, who may share wicketkeeping gloves with Harry Duke as the game progresses, is eyeing a return to the Yorkshire first team next week against Glamorgan as he builds up his fitness.

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