In-form Bairstow keen for limited-overs role
With two hundreds in his last four Tests, as well as 24 catches in his last three, Jonny Bairstow has seemingly silenced debate about his place in the side. He is not ready to stop there, however, and hopes to persuade the selectors to find room for him in England's white-ball set-up as well.
Bairstow has averaged 46.93 since returning to the Test XI at the expense of his Yorkshire team-mate Gary Ballance during last year's Ashes, while the hard work he has put into his wicketkeeping looks to be paying off as well. Bairstow took the gloves when Jos Buttler was dropped in the UAE and has now twice claimed nine catches in the match - two shy of the record - during emphatic England wins at the Wanderers and Headingley.
While his renaissance was founded on 1108 runs at 92.33 while keeping wicket for Yorkshire as they once again secured the Championship title in 2015, the spark in international cricket came during an ODI against New Zealand last June, when an unbeaten 83 from 60 balls led England to victory in the deciding match of the series at Chester-le-Street.
Bairstow has played just three more ODIs and a single T20 since then, with Buttler preferred as England's limited-overs keeper, but the injury suffered by Ben Stokes at Headingley, which is expected to keep him out for six weeks, as well as James Taylor's retirement could pave the way for a return during next month's one-day fixtures with Sri Lanka.
"I want to play every format I can. Absolutely," Bairstow said. "I want to play all forms of cricket for England, that's an ambition I have. I want to succeed in that. If that opportunity does arise, I don't see any reason why Jos and I can't play in the same side. I think that would be an exciting prospect with the likes of Stokesy, Jos and myself in that middle-order."
There are still two more Tests to play before England need worry about their 50-over side and, after his Man of the Match performance on his home ground, Bairstow will return to Chester-le-Street looking to continue the superb form that finally earned him another chance, 18 months after his previous appearance at the back end of the disastrous 2013-14 Ashes tour.
"I think it has been the culmination of a few years," he said. "Being left out of the side isn't necessarily a very nice thing to have done to you. I think moving forward, you either rest on your laurels or you take it on the chin and crack on. I think you learn a lot about yourself. It's not necessarily a nice thing to be left out or not do so well in a position that you know you're capable of doing.
"Coming back to Yorkshire for pretty much two years, learning your game, learning about yourself, playing my cricket here in a really great environment and winning trophies has done us and myself a world of good. Form can be taken from you very quickly. It only takes a couple of bits to go wrong and all of a sudden potentially you can be out of form. At this moment in time, I'm feeling good, happy with the way I'm striking the ball and with my movement. Hopefully, that can continue."
Bairstow's performances at No. 7, from where he helped put on 141 with Alex Hales at Headingley, and continued uncertainty over England's best batting order - James Vince scored 9 on debut at No. 5 after coming in for Taylor - has led to suggestions he could go up the order. Stokes' injury means he and Moeen Ali will almost certainly move up a spot for the next couple of Tests and Bairstow remains happy to fill whatever role best meets the team's needs.
"I'll bat wherever. [No. 5 is] the position I bat for Yorkshire and keep wicket so, if that opportunity comes up, it comes up," he said. "I'm happy at seven. As we know, the team is pretty balanced with Stokesy at six and Mo at eight and myself at seven. I think that is a really good position to be in, a good balance. The rest, I don't really want to think about to be honest because at this moment in time, I'm just happy, playing my cricket, seeing the ball, trying to catch the ball."
An uncluttered approach and a drive to keep improving seem to be serving Bairstow well, and after a "very special game" he just wanted to savour the moment. "First Test in England keeping wicket, first hundred in England in the Test side, 25th cap at your home ground in front of your home crowd is a fantastic moment. It's something I don't think I'll ever forget. And to have family and friends here makes it a pretty good week.
"I didn't go on and score big runs in the UAE but I was happy with the way I was playing. South Africa, the way I contributed there with both bat and gloves I was pretty pleased with. And it was important I started this season well. I'm pleased with the way it has gone for Yorkshire and started for England but we know it will be tough for the rest of the series against Sri Lanka and who knows what will happen against Pakistan."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick