CRICKET: Jonny Bairstow’s England recall shows the strength of Yorkshire, and the County Championship

Jonny Bairstow
Jonny Bairstow

Jonny Bairstow’s return to Test cricket is more than a tale of personal redemption.

Of course, it will be gratifying for the 25-year-old Yorkshireman if he makes a success of his 15th appearance at the highest level and first for 18 months.

But it matters too to English cricket, and not just in the high-profile short-term context of this summer’s Ashes, that Bairstow’s performance endorses the quality of domestic competition in which he has dominated so far this season.

Five LV= County Championship Division One centuries, including a career-best 219 not out against Durham at Chester-le-Street and a three-figure first-class average this season, indicate a vast improvement since Bairstow last played Test cricket at Sydney in January 2014.

It also demonstrates that, on current form at least, Bairstow was head and shoulders the outstanding candidate to come to England’s aid when they realised there had to be a change of personnel after their hapless second-innings 103 all out in the 405-run defeat to Australia at Lord’s.

The Ashes are 1-1 with three to play, and the stakes uncomfortably high for captain Alastair Cook and new coach Trevor Bayliss.

But as Bairstow moves up, and county colleague Gary Ballance drops in the opposite direction to try to restate his case with Yorkshire after a run of poor scores amid mutterings about his technique, many will also see the returning batsman’s fortunes as a barometer of county cricket’s standing.

The prevailing conditions on championship pitches will also be under the microscope, depending how Bairstow is able to adapt to a new examination by the increased pace of Mitchell Johnson et al.

Some identified a weakness to the short ball from West Indies’ Kemar Roach early in Bairstow’s career but that was far from proven, and he fared well as a deputy for Kevin Pietersen against a world-class South Africa attack at Lord’s three months later.

Bairstow, for what it is worth at this stage, is talking a good but measured game.

“Consistency-wise, I think I am in my best form and striking the ball well and I hope this will continue,” he said, after learning of his recall for next week’s third Investec Test at Edgbaston.

“Playing international cricket is a great challenge but that is why we play the game. If you don’t challenge yourself you will never find anything out about yourself.”

The same could be said about the competition you have been proving yourself in.

County cricket is the training ground for this country’s prospective Test players and has endured peaks and troughs of success in that function.

It will be harsh, and unwise perhaps, to draw firm conclusions about its current - or likely future - state on the basis of one graduate’s output in one Test match.

Some doubtless will do just that, though, and others may more sensibly follow suit by the end of the summer.

Bairstow, for one, is taking nothing for granted.

“I have been very positive at the crease this season and will try and take that into the Ashes series,” he said.

“You cannot say how you will play until you are there, but I will certainly relish the challenge.”