Bairstow rewarded for hard graft
Sussex 316 and 21 for 0 trail Yorkshire 470 for 7 dec (Bairstow 161*, Leaning 99, Bresnan 68, Magoffin 4-81, Tredwell 3-158) by 133 runs
Jonny Bairstow might consider himself the forgotten man of English cricket. As a 22-year-old, he scored 95 and 54 in a Test match against South Africa at Lord's when the daring of his strokeplay against Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn indicated a rare talent.
Two years on, Bairstow's career has not panned out as many envisaged. Those innings remain his most noteworthy contribution in an England shirt. In 14 Tests, he averages 27. That he was dropped for England's first Test of the summer, having kept wicket in the final two Ashes Tests, was barely remarked upon.
Yet Bairstow remains one of the most exciting English batsman around. At 24, he has plenty of time on his side. And on the third day, in his guise as a No. 5 batsman, an unbeaten 161 powered Yorkshire to a dominant position at Arundel. It continued quite a week.
On Friday night, Bairstow led Yorkshire to victory in a T20 Blast game with an unbeaten 60 off 37 balls. It was a reminder of the sparkle Bairstow displayed when, on his England debut, he blazed three sixes to win an ODI against India with an unbeaten 41.
On Wednesday, Bairstow snaffled six catches in an innings, only just failing to tie his late father's record of seven, the second time he has managed the feat for Yorkshire.
It was fitting that Bairstow brought up his century with a flick to the leg side, given his penchant for taking good-length balls from outside off stump to the midwicket boundary. As he celebrated by lifting his left arm aloft in triumph, the howls of delight from his team-mates spoke of his importance to this Yorkshire side.
On an anaemic wicket, Bairstow's hundred was, out of necessity, rather slower than is typical of him. Boundary hitting was fiendishly difficult for all players, rendering his scuttling between the wickets, as intense in the evening as it had been 24 hours earlier, a fertile source of runs.
But there were still glimpses of his style at the crease, notably in a couple of straight sixes off James Tredwell. His strike-rate of 55 was 12 higher than any of the other five half-centuries in the game so far which suggests that, for all Arundel's charms, a quicker pitch should be on the agenda for next year's festival.
Watching Bairstow, who added 138 for the sixth wicket with Tim Bresnan, end his wait for a County Championship century for Yorkshire - it had been 14 months and 15 innings since his last - must have only added to Jack Leaning's frustration. He was still waiting for a maiden first-class hundred after his innings was terminated on 99 by a stupendous return catch from Tredwell, nonchalantly plucking a lashed drive out of the air in a manner reminiscent of Andrew Flintoff.
But it was a wicket earned by the whole team. All the men were brought in and there was plenty of chirping. It all meant that Leaning had nowhere to go for an easy single. So after 257 balls of solidity he tried something new. He hit the ball in the air.
The sight of him trudging off, wearing the look of a child dragged away from their favourite TV programme, was an emphatic riposte to all those who blithely claim that cricketers care not for landmarks. Yet the range of shots and awareness of when to use them in Learning's innings suggested that his wait will not extend too much further.
It all made for a chastening day for Sussex. "Never mind, the sun's shining," one supporter said.
The burden largely fell on their two most experienced bowlers. Steve Magoffin claimed 4 for 81, including his compatriot Aaron Finch lbw, from 42 worthy overs. Tredwell bowled 59 overs, the most by any bowler in a first-class innings this season. His wish for overs with the red ball has been fulfilled - and then some. But the rest of the attack struggled: their 72 overs went for 225 runs and failed to yield a single wicket.
Given the sleepy air that overtook Arundel for much of the day, it seems odd that this match may yet have a positive outcome. Yorkshire's declaration, 10 overs from the close, showed that a win is definitely on their minds; Azeem Rafiq, bowling the day's final over, had a slip, a silly point, a leg slip and a short leg for company.
Even allowing for the pitch, a testing final day beckons for Sussex - one that would have seemed more uncomfortable had Chris Nash not flashed tantalisingly out of the reach of the slips off Jack Brooks.
Ed Joyce, Sussex's captain and most reliable source of runs, has a hamstring concern and did not take the field all day. He will now only be able to bat at seven in the second innings, and would appreciate it if the top order could give him a stress-free day.