Jonathan Marc Bairstow
September 26, 1989, Bradford, Yorkshire
Right hand bat
Right arm medium
Jonny Bairstow, the son of the former England wicketkeeper David Bairstow, is a combative wicketkeeper-batter who has become a cricketer to be reckoned with in England's middle order. The journey was far from easy for Bairstow, especially with Jos Buttler in contention for the gloves, but prolific run-making for Yorkshire eventually made a case that England's selectors could not ignore. Galvanised by his selection, runs flowed.
Bairstow's wicketkeeping has rarely met with universal approval and, much to his chagrin, the debate about whether he might be better playing as a specialist batter has never been silenced. But from the moment that he delivered an emotional maiden Test century in Cape Town, where his father had strong off-season links, he began to make a significant mark with England. Nothing could compare with his impact on the one-day team, where his peerless opening partnership with Jason Roy helped deliver England a first World Cup success in 2019.
He has had to fight against a tendency to play across the line and, to that end, he stands tall, bat held aloft, adding to his pugnacious image. Driven and independently minded, he is very much his own man. Intensive work with Bruce French, England's wicketkeeping coach, has also made his keeping more secure.
Bairstow was a talented all-round sportsman at an early age, even having trials with Leeds United as a right back. But it was cricket which soon dominated. An early starter with Yorkshire's Under-15s, he was named Young Wisden Schools Cricketer of the Year in 2007, having already played for Yorkshire's 2nd XI and their Academy side and represented England Under-17. He soon followed in his father's footsteps by signing a full-time contract with Yorkshire. Jonny was eight-years-old when his father took his own life. Merely to play the game, and for the same county, was courageous enough.
He made an impressive first-class debut against Somerset in June 2009, cracking 82 in his second innings, and soon secured his place in the first XI. Further honours followed when he was picked up by England's Performance Programme and included in the England Lions successful tour of the Caribbean in January 2011.
By now Yorkshire's first-choice keeper, he registered his maiden first-class hundred against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in May of that year. Having previously passed fifty 17 times in 34 first-class matches without reaching three figures, just to emphasise his breakthrough, he made it a double. During his brilliant attacking innings, he was joined by England's recently retired opening bowler Ryan Sidebottom in a record ninth-wicket partnership for Yorkshire against Nottinghamshire (which had stood since 1899) of 151. Bairstow and Sidebottom were sons of two of Yorkshire's best-loved former players - the passing of talent between the generations could not have been more satisfactorily captured.
Many suspected that, long term, Bairstow would become a specialist batter and his debut innings in one-day internationals backed up that theory as he hit an unbeaten 41 off 21 balls against India at Cardiff. A tough India tour showed the realities of international cricket but he bounced back with a match-winning 60 off 46 in a T20I against Pakistan in the UAE and, after a strong start to the 2012 season, he was handed a call-up to the Test squad to face West Indies.
It was not a happy series for Bairstow, whose problems against some hostile short bowling from Kemar Roach gained much media attention. He was left out of the opening Test of the South Africa series but, after Kevin Pietersen was dropped in extraordinary circumstances, another opportunity arose for Bairstow to which he responded magnificently. His brilliant 95 at Lord's led an England fightback from 54 for 4, Bairstow emerging from a short-ball peppering to play some fluent attacking shots in an innings former England captain Michael Vaughan said would have been the finest maiden Test century he had witnessed had his fellow Yorkshireman not been bowled by Morne Morkel.
He played all five of England's games at the World T20 that winter, averaging just 9.50, and his participation in the India Test series was also limited before he was granted leave to return home because of a family illness. Thereafter his bit-part status congealed - he lost his spot in the T20 team and, after returning to the Test team during the Ashes as England dropped Nick Compton and moved Joe Root up the order, he was abruptly left out at The Oval. A squad member for the return tour of Australia, he played in the last two Tests, replacing the out-of-form Matt Prior, but did not unearth the performances to promote his worth as Prior's long-term successor and had to buckle down to the county circuit the following summer.
That 2015 season promised to be the making of him as he struck 1108 first-class runs at 92.33, allowed by Yorkshire to play as he saw fit. Nothing was more emphatic than his 366-run alliance with Tim Bresnan at Chester-le-Street, both players making career-bests in Yorkshire's fifth-highest stand of all time. England were receptive. A combative 83 not out at Chester-le-Street after a late summons settled a weather-hit ODI against New Zealand in England's favour and the faltering form of Buttler brought a Test recall against Australia.
It was Cape Town, though, where Bairstow really broke through, as the summer of 2016 testified. Bairstow's second Test ton was reserved for his home crowd against Sri Lanka: 140, batting at No. 7, out of 298. On a challenging surface, he played with a certainty not given to others. England's top order was repeatedly found wanting in Test cricket, but the belligerence of Bairstow and co down the order constantly dug them out of a hole, and another hundred at Lord's followed.
His desire was relentless and his growing impact in ODIs was enough for him to return at the top of the order in the Champions Trophy semi-final - a defeat against Pakistan in Cardiff. West Indies felt his frustration at the end of the summer in the form of his first two ODI hundreds.
But even as he became increasingly integral to England's white-ball fortunes, vagaries of selection hurt his Test chances. He scored an Ashes hundred on the 2017-18 tour and another in Christchurch a few months later, but pushed up the order to cover for deficiencies in others, his form dipped; he lost the gloves to Ben Foakes due to injury in Sri Lanka - though scored a bristling century when asked to bat as a specialist at No. 3 - and then saw the role handed to Buttler following a 2-2 draw in the 2019 Ashes.
Back-to-back hundreds in crunch World Cup group games against New Zealand and India had been pivotal on England's route to the trophy, his opening partnership with Roy already among the most prolific in history. He enhanced his reputation further in the IPL, but in Tests he drifted to the periphery. Ed Smith, the national selector, suggested he needed to work on his red-ball game but rarely did he have the opportunity to do so; a comeback in 2021 only meeting with fitful success.
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