Jonny Bairstow
Bairstow shone despite England's collapse. Getty

Yorkshire batter Jonny Bairstow has handed England great news ahead of the Ashes 2023 with a fine knock on return from a freak leg injury.

England are aiming to retain the Ashes for the first time since 2015, and they are going to host arch-rivals Australia in the five-match Test series, starting in June.

Bairstow's heartbreaking end to 2022

Bairstow had a magnificent 2022, in which he scored 1,061 runs in 10 Tests, including six centuries and was the second leading scorer for England after former captain Joe Root. The Yorkshire batter was in the middle of a great streak, scoring four hundreds in five innings for England. While he was also named as winner of the Wisden trophy, the year did not end as he would have liked to. In a heartbreak for Bairstow, he slipped during a golf session and it had cruel consequences.

He was left with three separate fractures in his left leg as well as a dislocated ankle and ligament damage. The Yorkshireman needed surgery on his broken leg and dislocated ankle. The injury meant he was out of England's 2022 T20 World Cup campaign in Australia. It turned out to be a successful campaign as the Englishmen went on to clinch their second T20 World Cup trophy. The Jos Buttler-led England defeated Pakistan in the final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), which made them the most successful current white-ball team as they also hold the 50-over World Cup title.

In Bairstow's absence over the months, an in-form Harry Brook has sealed his place in the English Test team, with pundits even raising questions about whether Bairstow will be able to reclaim his place ahead of the Ashes.

Bairstow returns with a bang

But it looks like Bairstow is ready to push for a place in England's squad for the upcoming summer battle. On a low-key comeback, while playing for Yorkshire in a second XI game against Nottinghamshire on Tuesday, Bairstow immediately gained the attention of England Test captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum. Considered one of the main heroes of the "Bazball" era of England, Bairstow picked up right from where he left off last year as he scored an 88-ball 97.

Even though he missed out on a century by three runs, it was a memorable day for the wicketkeeper-batsman as he was returning to the crease for the first time in almost eight months.

Fortunately for Bairstow, who came out to bat at No. 4, he earned a life when his fellow England player Olly Stone dropped him on 21. Taking full advantage of Stone's mistake, Bairstow went berserk at Headingley as he struck two sixes and 13 fours before eventually falling to Stone, three runs short of a hundred.

Meanwhile, Yorkshire head coach Tim Smith admitted that Bairstow had a few butterflies ahead of his first competitive appearance in 241 days.

"He was a little bit nervous this morning, it was like his debut again. He had a little chat with the lads this morning and it was quite funny – he said 'just watch it on the running'. But his first run he sprinted a single and we had a chuckle to ourselves," said Smith.

The Yorkshire boss went on to add that regardless of the form of cricket, Bairstow was gutted to get dismissed on Day 1 at Headingley.

"But he was happy with the way it went. Getting runs being out there in the middle, he was chuffed to bits. You can have as many nets as you want but when you actually get out there and face bowlers like Olly Stone it's going to test you. It's been a good challenge," added Smith.

England are scheduled to play a one-off Test against Ireland, starting June 1 at Lord's before kickstarting the 2023 Ashes from June 16 at Edgbaston, Birmingham.