Chris Waters: Bairstow now in the form of his life as critics are silenced
THE numbers speak for themselves'¦ 102, 59, 50, 66, 125*, 0, 15, 219*, 108, 23, 139, 74*, 91, 1, 36, 246, 5.
Those are Jonny Bairstow’s County Championship scores since the start of last season, an extraordinary sequence that shows no sign of ending.
It all adds up to 1,359 runs in 10 games at an average of 97.07.
It also emphasises the impact that Bairstow has had on Yorkshire’s recent success.
Normally, a purple patch lasts for a few days, weeks, or perhaps a few months.
It does not usually extend for almost a year. But since that first score of 102 against Hampshire at Headingley last May, Bairstow has been in unstoppable form.
It is not simply the volume of runs, but the context in which he has scored them that has been so impressive, with several of those innings helping Yorkshire from positions of adversity and proving to be of match-winning significance.
Since returning to Yorkshire from England’s tour of the West Indies last Spring, Bairstow has taken his game to another level.
He did not play in that three-Test series in the Caribbean, where he spent much of his time carrying drinks, and he returned to Yorkshire with something to prove.
To say that he has done so is an understatement.
It would have been easy in the circumstances for a player to mope about feeling sorry for himself, but Bairstow has shown his character as well as his class.
Jason Gillespie, the Yorkshire first-team coach, always tells his players that they are their own best selector, a mantra that Bairstow has illustrated perfectly.
Encouraged by Gillespie and Yorkshire director of cricket Martyn Moxon to go out and play his natural game, Bairstow simply made it impossible for England to leave him out, achieving a level of consistency managed by few.
Recalled for the third Test against Australia at Edgbaston last July, his first Test appearance for over 18 months, Bairstow seized his chance and scored 74 in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge, where his stand of 173 for the fourth-wicket with fellow Yorkshireman Joe Root helped England to an innings win that clinched the Ashes.
After England’s difficult series against Pakistan in the UAE last autumn, Bairstow topped the averages in the four-Test series against South Africa, where he hit his maiden Test hundred – 150 not out in Cape Town.
Bairstow’s performances in South Africa were even more impressive considering the criticism he had taken prior to the series.
The likes of former England captain Bob Willis, for example, had rubbished his capacity to deliver with the bat at the highest level, an attitude that itself has been made to look rubbish.
Bairstow’s wicketkeeping, as he readily admits, is a work in progress, but, again, some of the criticism he has suffered has been over the top.
Matt Prior, it should be remembered, was not without blemish at the start of his Test career, and yet he put that behind him to thrive with the gloves.
As proved once again by his double-century against Hampshire last week, the 26-year-old Bairstow is in the form of his life.
The numbers really do speak for themselves, a testament to one of the game’s greatest entertainers.