Broken finger hurts Bairstow prospects
Jonny Bairstow's chance of retaining his place as England's Test wicketkeeper have taken a major blow with a broken finger ruling him out for up to six weeks.
Bairstow, who played the final two Ashes Tests in Australia, could potentially miss Yorkshire's opening four County Championship matches, limiting his opportunity to stake a claim for the gloves in England's first Test of the summer on June 12.
Playing in a three-day friendly against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road, Bairstow took a painful blow attempting to take a Liam Plunkett delivery down the leg side. After seeing a specialist in Leeds it was confirmed Bairstow has fractured the ring finger on his left hand.
Should Bairstow not return until early May, he could have only three County Championship matches in which to impress the England management, and a new head coach who is expected to be appointed in two weeks' time.
Bairstow, 24, failed to convince on his return to Test cricket with a highest score of 21 in four innings in Melbourne and Sydney. If those performances could be forgiven in an England dressing room at a particularly low ebb, his performances for England Lions in Sri Lanka were more disappointing.
A century in a warm-up match against Sri Lanka A Emerging Players was his only score above fifty in five matches on the tour with his best effort in the three-match unofficial Test series against Sri Lanka A just 27.
"It is a devastating blow for Jonny," Yorkshire first team coach Jason Gillespie told the club's official website. "He has been working incredibly hard to put in some strong performances for Yorkshire during the early part of the season to enhance his England credentials. It is a great shame for him and I know that he is really disappointed with the news.
"He will be working hard on his rehab and we remain hopeful that if the fracture can heal quickly he could be back sooner. It was an innocuous injury. In these circumstances Jonny would take that ball a hundred times without any problems. Things like this can happen in professional sport.
"It is how you deal with it that matters most and I know that with his [Bairstow] positivity, he will be chomping at the bit to get back to playing for Yorkshire as soon as possible."
Of further concern for Bairstow was the immediate return to form of Matt Prior, who struck a crisp century - his first for over a year - in his opening innings of the Championship season. But Prior benefitted from three dropped catches and an Achilles problem also prevented him from keeping wicket.