Leeds, May 04 - 07, 2023, County Championship Division Two
245 & 352/4d
(T:492) 106 & 412/9

Match drawn


Yorkshire falter on Jonny Bairstow's return

Aches perhaps for wannabe Ashes keeper, but pains reserved for Yorkshire as Glamorgan take control

Jonny Bairstow turned back the clock and kept wicket for Yorkshire, Yorkshire vs Glamorgan, Headingley, County Championship, May 4, 2023

Jonny Bairstow revived memories of keeping for Yorkshire  •  Getty Images

Glamorgan 245 (Labuschagne 65, Northeast 49, Edwards 3-54) lead Yorkshire 62 for 5 (Neser 3-15) by 183 runs
There can't be much Jonny Bairstow and the Archbishop of Canterbury have in common. But for the next few days at least, their hands are of great interest.
Different levels, of course. The duties in Westminister Abbey of popping a crown on the head of King Charles III ranks higher than standing up to the stumps for Ben Coad. But even two days earlier and some 195 miles north of Saturday's Coronation, a different pair of king-making hands were being scrutinised.
Thursday's opening day to this Division Two bout between Yorkshire and Glamorgan by another name was The Much-Anticipated Return of Bairstow, Even with two teams desperate for a first win of the season, this felt as much about one man's return as it did about a county looking for light to break through the years of dark cloud. And to arrive at the ground in the morning was to know the bright spots were very much to do with one son's return. Nine months from suffering multiple fractures in his left leg in a freak accident on a golf course, 2022's Bazball totem was back.
It was, in many ways, the perfect scenario. The buzz around the stands dulled slightly when Yorkshire decided to bowl first after winning the toss. And while it was a shame to have to wait to watch Bairstow bat, more insightful was the 71.5 overs spent keeping wicket. Even after a spectacular last summer - 681 runs, four hundreds and an average of 75.66 - his work behind the stumps between now and Tests against Ireland and Australia will guarantee he reclaims a spot in the XI he feels is rightfully his. Ultimately, by taking it away from Ben Foakes.
That Yorkshire followed up their removal of Glamorgan for 245 with 62 for 5 of their own leaves more out there for Bairstow. Originally carded at five, he flexed seniority to call on two nightwatchman - Mickey Edwards and Matt Fisher - before having to walk out at 6:36pm for the final two overs anyway. Presumably sending out a third would have been poor form. Either way, a few hours of vintage on Friday Jonny will echo far beyond this match.
Before the two sacrificial lambs were three catches of varying degrees of difficulty across a keeping performance that was surprisingly assured. The aches will no doubt come, but there were no pains evident in real-time.
The first dismissal got him up and about, in amongst it a matter of minutes after the team huddled beyond the boundary's edge. Four balls in, a comically loose drive from visiting skipper David Lloyd gave Bairstow an excuse to test out his side-to-side, shuffling to his right to complete the dismissal.
Number two gave us a sense of his athleticism, diving to his left to take a spectacular grab with his left-hand a matter of inches off the turf after George Hill had taken Kiran Carlson's inside edge. The third was as vital to Yorkshire's cause as it was to the Ashes narrative: Marnus Labuschagne feathering an edge off Hill for 65.
The Australian came to the crease with nothing on the board, and together with Sam Northeast dragged Glamorgan out of the Coad-induced hole of 1 for 2. The pair made 83 between them before Northeast, the aggressor, was sent back by Edwards three deliveries after the lunch break, unable to get his bat (and handle) out of a delivery that exploded off a length. Soon afterwards, Coad left the field - this time the explosion was in his groin.
Labuschagne had played possum early doors. He took lunch on 19 from 101 deliveries but soon moved to a second half-century of the season just 32 deliveries later. He had just started looking like Test cricket's number one ranked batter when Hill got one to hold its line off the seam from the Rugby Stand End.
This was the one that drew the most emotion from Bairstow, and not just because of their nationalities. Bairstow had been getting in Labuschagne's ear since the end of the 21st over when the right-hander, on 10, seemingly edged Edwards behind. Labuschagne's unperturbed demeanour worked well enough to keep the umpire's finger down, much to the annoyance of the fielding team and those in the stands.
That should have been 42 for three, and who knows what that might have meant for Glamorgan this early on in the piece. Contributions from Timm van der Gugten and Billy Root got them within five of what they considered a par first innings score. To have led by 194 with five Yorkshire wickets already is sure more than they would have expected, considering how the day began.
Though even Thursday's conclusion gives the scoreboard an artificial look. Both of Bairstow's nightwatchmen fell in the space of two balls, meaning he had to come out at anyway under floodlights and with Labuschagne taking the opportunity to return serve now the shoe was on the other foot. Barring a stifled lbw shout second ball, it was largely without issue. A nudge around the corner off his fourth delivery face brought a first first-class run since 49 against South Africa last August, nine months ago.
Nine months or "36 weeks" as Bairstow put it on Instagram on Wednesday night. The content of the post spoke of pain, emotions and unanswerable questions during this long stretch on the sideline. What those closest to him knew was distilled in those 115 words for the rest of us.
Privately, the 33-year-old's angst is as much about the crushing disappointment of losing it all when he finally felt settled as it is about having to watch the last six months from home. The T20 World Cup win, the historic Test series in Pakistan, the rise of Harry Brook from place-holder to wunderkind. There's FOMO, and then there's whatever Bairstow went through.
There were a few byes, notably one for four which wobbled devilishly past his right after sending him left, but nothing worrisome. At times, he was childlike, at one point running over to an advertising board blown onto the field and lying across it, looking to the stands for laughs like this was panto. It duly came.
This is only day one of his return, but to see him with a smile on his face, even as he walked off sheepishly at the end, felt like a positive step forward to all this. Even if it moves us closer to an awkward call for the Ashes, that Bairstow is back is only a boost for English cricket.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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County Championship Division Two