Jonathan Bairstow scored an incredible unbeaten 125 to take Yorkshire to a handy first-innings lead against table-toppers Middlesex at Headingley.
Yorkshire endured a horror start to Day Two, when Toby Roland-Jones rapped Jack Leaning on the back pad with the first ball of the morning. Two balls later, Glenn Maxwell gave a very good impression of someone who hadn’t been watching the wickets tumble yesterday, a difficult role to pull off given that he’d taken three of them. A loose flash outside off stump; Yorkshire 96/6.
They bat deep, though, do Yorkshire. Tim Bresnan, batting at nine today, scored a century in their last four-day game. Will Rhodes and Bairstow would have been a fourth-wicket partnership not long ago, and as long as the former England wicket-keeper was at the crease, Yorkshire had a hope of reaching parity.
Rhodes played a reasonable supporting role, but was caught behind for 11 off Tim Murtagh, who was rewarded for a morning of tight and disciplined dry bowling. Bresnan was also defensive for his four, but also perished when a thick edge flew quickly to Ollie Rayner in the slips, and he claimed his third victim of the innings.
Bairstow was omitted from England’s ODI squad against New Zealand, and carried drinks in the West Indies. His performances this season have ably demonstrated why he should not be forgotten. He had not failed to pass 50 in any of his four innings in the LV County Championship this year, and he continued that run when he flicked James Harris behind square for a single to reach his half-century.
James Franklin might reflect that he kept too many men out on the rope, and offered Bairstow too many options to keep the strike when batting with the tail. Nevertheless, Jack Brooks clearly holds his own batting in high regard: on more than one occasion, he cheekily pinched the strike for himself. As Bairstow moved into the 90s, every block from Brooks was greeted with an ironic cheer.
Bairstow reached three figures in the 68th over, dabbing Harris through the vacant slip area for four, and was on 125* when Brooks edged Rayner to John Simpson behind the stumps. Simpson’s opposite number cannot have scored many hundreds in more trying match circumstances. Coach Jason Gillespie was effusive in his praise for Bairstow, who was recently overlooked for England’s ODI series against New Zealand:
“It’s one of the best innings you’ll see in county cricket. I thought the way he batted with the lower order was simply outstanding. In the context of the game, the situation we found ourselves in, for us to find ourselves in the lead going into the second innings was fantastic. We’re quite fortunate at Yorkshire to have Jonny in this game. My personal opinion is he should be with the England side. He’s been a victim of circumstance.”
Robson and Burns were looking solid in their opening partnership until Burns got a thick edge that appeared to be flying away for four through vacant third slip until Adam Lyth flew to his right from second to claim a highlights-reel catch. The next ball Jack Brooks got one to skid through on Nick Compton and he was out leg before. Sam Robson has two starts in this match, but didn’t reach 50 in either as Steven Patterson dismissed him (also lbw) shortly after Dawid Malan had called for a runner.
With the ball swinging and Middlesex’s middle order in questionable form, it was not long before Tim Bresnan claimed his first wicket of the match, Neil Dexter also lbw. At the other end, Steven Patterson bowled his regular nagging line and length – at one point boasting figures of 13-7-12-1 – in a typically understated fashion.
Malan and Franklin took advantage of some loose bowling from Maxwell, but otherwise kept things fairly tight. Adam Lyth was brought on as Gale gave up on Maxwell, but Malan and Franklin were watchful against his admittedly tidier off-spin. Their 50 partnership was reached in the dying moments of the day.
Once again, stumps came with the match in a fascinating state. Middlesex are some way off a competitive lead, but they still have enough wickets in hand to cause Yorkshire problems on Day Three.