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Bairstow ready for decisive week

By James O'Brien

Jonny Bairstow has urged his Yorkshire Vikings team-mates to hit the ground running when Roses rivals Lancashire Lightning visit a sold-out Headingley on Friday for the first of five NatWest T20 Blast matches in eight days. 

The Vikings are playing catch up in the North Group having played only five games so far, three fewer than joint-leaders Worcestershire Rapids and Lancashire.

The White Rose are handily placed on seven points but Bairstow knows they need a good week to keep up with the early pace-setters.

"We've got five T20s coming up in the next eight days so that's a pretty crucial period in the season for us," Bairstow told ecb.co.uk. "It will basically decide our T20 campaign.

"We've obviously got the big game on Friday against Lancashire, which was keenly contested over at Old Trafford, and then we've got Notts the following day down at Trent Bridge so it's going to be two very tough games in two days for us.

"We haven't had a T20 for two weeks now so we need to get straight back in and hit the ground running.

"It's going to be important to make sure we're not behind the eight ball when it comes to tomorrow night."

Jonny Bairstow hits out during his innings of 24 against Northamptonshire Steelbacks in their NatWest T20 Blast opener in May

Yorkshire earned bragging rights following their last-over victory at Emirates Old Trafford in early June, a thrilling match which saw the Lightning handed a six-run penalty for a slow over-rate.

Bairstow, who helped his side home with 19 not out, is braced for a strong reaction from the Red Rose as they look to make amends for that heart-breaking defeat.

"They're going to be very much up for it," the England wicketkeeper-batsman said.

"We were a bit fortunate that we got those six runs. They played some very good cricket. Perhaps in some ways we got out of jail, but we'll take the win.

"They've got a lot of dangerous players. They wouldn't have had as much success as they've had in the T20s if they didn't have a number of key players.

"We've seen how Junaid Khan bowls at the death, how dangerous Tom Smith has been at the top of the order and with Jos (Buttler) in the middle as well, they're obviously a dangerous outfit."

One thing in Yorkshire's favour on Friday night will be a passionate crowd, with locals expected to make up the vast majority of a packed Headingley.

Bairstow is excited to get out there in front of a full house and hopes the Tykes fans make life difficult for their rivals.

"It's always a spectacle. They're absolutely brilliant to play in (Roses matches)," he said.

"The crowd are absolutely fantastic. They always get behind us, like the Lancashire fans got behind their lads when we were over there.

Australian opener Aaron Finch played a key role in Yorkshire's NatWest T20 Blast victory over Lancashire earlier in the month

"I don't think they're coming over thinking it's going to be 'yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir'; I think they're expecting a keenly-fought contest both from the crowd and from us." 

One player who has helped get supporters through the gate this season has been destructive Australian batsman Aaron Finch.

He hit a swashbuckling 88 off only 55 balls in the reverse fixture against the Red Rose and Yorkshire will look to him to set the tone once again.

Bairstow hailed the impact Finch has had on the dressing room and believes the Aussie has shown why he is rated the best international batsman in the sprint format. 

"You don't get to number one in the world in T20 cricket if you're not the calibre of player that he is and score the amount of runs he does," Bairstow added.

"In our squad he's a brilliant addition and hopefully that'll continue in the remaining period that he's here."

Bairstow himself is in good form having scored at least a half-century in each of his last three knocks, including 161 not out against Sussex in a recent LV= County Championship Division One game.

"I'm pretty pleased with the way that I'm going at the moment," he said. "It's nice to be playing some cricket and getting out there and scoring some runs.

"I'm happy with how I'm travelling and hopefully that will continue."

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