Jonny Bairstow and Adam Lyth ensure it is business as usual for Yorkshire

Adam Lyth and Jonny Bairstow produced a strong partnership as champions Yorkshire opened their season against Hampshire (Picture: Tony Johnson).
Adam Lyth and Jonny Bairstow produced a strong partnership as champions Yorkshire opened their season against Hampshire (Picture: Tony Johnson).

ONCE they had scraped the ice off the outfield, the sun shone brightly on Yorkshire’s first day of Championship cricket in 2016.

And once they had recovered from a slight wobble to 41-3, the champions set about showing the sort of form that has made them favourites to retain the title.

By stumps, the scoreboard showed 270-5, and a day that had begun somewhat discouragingly had ended with a familiarly favourable ring.

Ditto the part played in proceedings by Jonny Bairstow, who carried on from where he left off last summer with a magnificent, unbeaten 107, the England star sharing in a stand of 205 for the fourth-wicket with Adam Lyth, who hit 111, his first hundred since the Headingley Test against New Zealand last May.

Overall, it was business as usual for the defending champions, who are chasing a hat-trick of Championship crowns.

Considering they had the worst of conditions at the start of the day, when Hampshire took up the option to bowl first without the need for a toss, the hosts could be pleased with their overall work.

Lesser sides might have subsided from 41-3, but Yorkshire appear to thrive on adversity.

Thanks to Lyth and Bairstow, who thrilled a crowd of 2,317, who defiantly withstood a bitterly cold wind, they already have a competitive score.

In front of national selector James Whitaker, Lyth’s hundred, the 17th of his first-class career, was a welcome boost not only for Yorkshire, but also for England.

The left-hander is battling to regain the opener’s spot in the Test line-up that he lost last summer, and only sheer weight of runs is going to suffice.

On a day when one of his challengers, Sam Robson, made a hundred for Middlesex, Lyth sent out a message that he has no intention of giving up on his international dreams.

On the contrary, he is pursuing them with renewed relish as he tries to put behind him last summer’s personal disappointment.

“It was nice to get some runs, and it can’t do me any harm to score a good hundred in front of James Whitaker,” said Lyth.

“It was one of my best innings, and hopefully I can keep this form going.

“I’m not in the England side at the moment, and all I can do is score runs for Yorkshire.

“I’ve had the winter to get last summer out of my system, and I’m feeling really good at the moment.”

Lyth, 28, appears both physically and mentally refreshed.

He has worked hard on tightening up his game after he was tested by Australia’s new-ball bowlers.

“I think I’m leaving the ball a bit better than I did in the Ashes,” he said.

“It’s obviously not the same here as facing the Aussies; Fidel (Edwards) gets it through at a good pace but, no disrespect to the other Hampshire guys, they’re not bowling at 90mph.

“Overall, though, we had a good day, and if we can get over 350, we’re well in the game.

“It was tough out there, and it’s one of those wickets where you never feel completely in.”

After a wet outfield delayed the start by 30 minutes, Lyth drove the first ball of Yorkshire’s Championship campaign to the cover boundary off Edwards.

Alex Lees fell early in the piece, caught at third slip playing back to James Tomlinson, before a pivotal moment in the 11th over.

Lyth, having advanced to 14, patted back a return catch to Edwards, who grassed a relatively straightforward chance. Edwards – operating from the Kirkstall Lane end – sank to the turf in despair, and Lyth duly set about making the most of the reprieve.

Gary Ballance – another fighting to regain his Test spot – was caught behind trying to withdraw his bat to a ball from Chris Wood, which left Yorkshire 36-2, and Andrew Gale was strangled down the leg-side by Ryan McLaren for a 12th-ball duck. But as was so often the case in 2015, Bairstow emerged to transform the mood, getting off the mark with a sweet boundary through mid-wicket off Wood and then pulling Tomlinson for six towards the North East Stand.

At lunch, the picture looked healthier for the hosts at 80-3, and Bairstow and Lyth took the fight to Hampshire after the restart.

McLaren was taken for 41 in four overs to wreck his earlier figures of 6-4-6-1 as Yorkshire ruthlessly seized control.

Lyth went to his fifty from 115 balls and needed only another 62 deliveries to reach his century before Sean Ervine finally pinned him in front.

Bairstow reached fifty from 63 balls and his hundred from 167 deliveries, with Yorkshire also losing Jack Leaning to a catch behind off Wood before bad light ended play with 21 overs remaining.