Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98
Jonny Bairstow has reiterated his desire to play Tests and said that he has never felt any temptation to put all of his focus on white-ball cricket after hitting 82 off 41 balls in the second ODI against Ireland.
Bairstow continued his extraordinary run of 50-over form in an England shirt on Saturday, equalling the record for England's fastest ODI half-century when he whacked the 21st ball of his innings over long-off for six. In the course of his day's work, he also passed 3000 ODI runs, equalling Joe Root's England record in doing so in his 72nd innings.
Since he was handed a chance to open with Jason Roy following Alex Hales' post-Bristol omission in September 2017, Bairstow has averaged 50.36 and scored at 6.72 runs per over in ODI cricket, a 49-innings stretch which includes nine 100s and seven 50s. His record against spin in that time is particularly belligerent: he scores at 7.33 runs per over against it, averaging 82.2 runs per dismissal.
And yet coming into this series, Bairstow had stated his intention to use the three ODIs as the start of his "journey" to get back into Test-match contention.
"[A Test recall] is my burning ambition but the only way I'm going to do that is to score runs, starting in this ODI series, [and] to keep well," he told Sky. "I'm hopefully going back to Yorkshire to play two four-day games in between this and the T20s. So yeah, the journey to hopefully get back into contention for that starts here."
Bairstow has played only one Test since last summer's Ashes series, making 1 and 9 in the Boxing Day Test at Centurion which Ollie Pope missed through illness. He had been left out of the side for the tour of New Zealand before Christmas, and was omitted from the squad that travelled to Sri Lanka immediately before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
Since then, he was part of England's enlarged training group ahead of their series against West Indies, but transferred across to the white-ball bubble when it became clear that he would not make the XI for the first Test. He hopes to play a handful of Willis Trophy games for Yorkshire before England's planned white-ball series against Australia in September, and said on Saturday that he was desperate to put himself "back in the shop window" for selection.
"I've worked hard with my Test and red-ball stuff leading into the camp," he said. "I'm here playing white-ball cricket. Obviously you're really pleased for the guys that have gone and won that Test series after being 1-0 down. That takes a lot of guts, so it was great to see them win that series.
"I'll be going back and playing for Yorkshire in the four-day comp. I'll be trying my best - that's all I can do to put myself back in the shop window to be selected in the Test squad again.
"I'm concentrating on scoring runs, and I'll try and get a lot of them here. Down the line, what happens, happens. I'll go back to Yorkshire next week, and hopefully play Notts next week or the week after. I'm just concentrating on playing my cricket, not looking too far ahead."
Chasing a below-par 213 target on a used pitch, Bairstow flew out of the blocks on Saturday, hitting 14 fours and two sixes in an innings that showed him at somewhere near his best. He admitted that he felt some additional responsibility in the absence of Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler from the usual ODI batting line-up, but said that was not something that fazed him.
"When you're chasing slightly lower scores on a pitch that might not be coming on as much, I think it can be slightly tricky, depending on how the start is," he said. "The way Jason [Roy] and I have gone about it previously has been to play as naturally as possible - we've gone about it in a way that we'd chase a larger score.
"I'd have liked to have gone on and seen it home, but the manner we're playing in, we want to keep going with that. You want to be out there in the middle, and hopefully thriving on the pressure and the responsibility. You want to be setting the standard for the guys that are coming into the side… hopefully that feeds down into the guys that are playing their first few games."
There are times when you can't help but wonder whether Bairstow would make life easier for himself if he gave up his Test dream and instead focused on securing his status as one of the best white-ball batsmen in the world, thrashing boundaries in T20 leagues and putting his name alongside Buttler and Eoin Morgan as one of England's modern one-day greats.
Is it something that has ever crossed his mind, you might wonder? "No, to be quite honest with you," was his snappy reply.