BRAND new season, same old Jonny Bairstow.
Having played a pivotal part in Yorkshire’s County Championship title last year, Bairstow has picked up from where he left off in the opening match of 2016.
It seemed barely possible that Bairstow could repeat the sort of form that he showed last summer, when he hit 1,108 Championship runs at 92, for it would require a superhuman effort to sustain such statistics.
But in his first innings of this campaign, Bairstow scored a career-best 246, breaking new ground on a personal level on the back of a breakthrough winter with England.
For a good year now, Bairstow has been enjoying the sort of purple patch that rarely extends for such a long time, and yet there is no sign of it ending. As Yorkshire overwhelmed Hampshire on day two, adding to their overnight 270-5 with a ridiculous return of 323 runs in just 43 overs before declaring on 593-9, Bairstow annihilated the Hampshire attack.
Liam Plunkett also plundered a career-best 126, adding 227 for the seventh-wicket with Bairstow inside 29 overs, a period of play that was simply exhilarating.
Hampshire made 141-5 in reply, their batsmen charged with atoning for a bowling performance that was at best mediocre, with Yorkshire strongly placed at the halfway stage.
Bairstow, who faced 270 balls and hit 29 fours and three sixes, said: “It was a great day, and I’m delighted to have scored a double hundred and my first one at Headingley. It’s nice to hit the ground running, but it’s a long season.
“Rash (Adil Rashid) played really well at the start of the day, and then the way that Liam played was absolutely fantastic.
“When someone is striking the ball like that, you just let them go for as long as possible.”
Plunkett, whose runs arrived from 102 balls and included 18 fours and two sixes, so nearly became the first Yorkshire batsman for 26 years to score a century before lunch in a first-class match, Ashley Metcalfe having achieved the feat against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham in 1990.
Remarkably, after arriving at the crease at 11.52am, Plunkett had 94 to his name at the interval, equalling his previous best Championship score for Durham against Sussex at Hove in 2009.
“I always consider that I can get runs,” said Plunkett, “even though I was No 11 in the T20 World Cup for a few games. I feel in good nick with bat and ball, and I’ve felt good in the nets recently.
“Jonny was obviously nailing it, and I managed to hit a few out of the middle. It’s nice to get my first Championship hundred.”
Yorkshire started the day needing 130 runs from 35 overs to claim maximum batting points, a target they achieved with 15.4 overs to spare.
In gloomy conditions and with the floodlights on, Bairstow needed no artificial light as he played like someone who was seeing it like a football.
The tone was set in the first over, bowled by Chris Wood, who conceded 13 from it and later limped off with a knee injury.
Liam Dawson, the left-arm spinner, was also unable to bowl due to a stomach problem, although there was no mitigation for Hampshire’s display.
Bairstow and Rashid had lifted their overnight stand of 21 to 99 when Rashid fell with the score on 348, strangled down the leg-side by James Tomlinson.
Plunkett and Bairstow raised a fifty partnership in 37 balls, Bairstow going to his seventh score of 150 or more out of his 18 hundreds at first-class level.
Plunkett reached fifty from 38 balls and celebrated by hooking pace bowler Fidel Edwards for six.
At times, both batsmen made the former West Indies international look ordinary, Edwards’s analysis of 0-145 from 23 overs reflecting Yorkshire’s superiority.
Bairstow eased past his previous best of 219 not out against Durham at Chester-le-Street last season, and Plunkett past his previous high of 114 for England Lions against Sri Lanka Emerging Players at Colombo in 2014.
Both batsmen fell with the score on 575, Bairstow caught by a leaping Tomlinson at long-on off Alsop and Plunkett bowled round his legs by Will Smith.
Steve Patterson fell lbw to Alsop, at which point Yorkshire declared after posting their highest Championship score against Hampshire.
Alsop went early in the Hampshire response, lbw to Ryan Sidebottom, and Plunkett drew a drive from Michael Carberry that was smartly grabbed at first slip by Alex Lees.
Brooks pinned Smith, and Sidebottom trapped Dawson to claim his 999th wicket in professional cricket.
Tomlinson fended a short ball from Plunkett to Jack Leaning at fourth slip, but James Vince is still there having played with plenty of heart for 76.