England may have slumped to a five-wicket defeat to New Zealand in the fourth one-day international in Dunedin, but lurking beneath that disappointment was an imperious century from Jonny Bairstow.
The Yorkshireman amassed a stunning 138 – his second highest one-day knock for England – from 106 balls and smashed seven sixes over the short boundaries of the University Oval.
Bairstow has had to bide his time and only really began to cement his place in the 50-over side last year when he struck a landmark hundred against West Indies at Old Trafford in September during a seven-wicket success.
That match was Bairstow’s 28th one-day appearance since making his debut six years earlier against India at Cardiff. He has played 13 more in a little over six months, and in that period averages a shade below 60.
Like I say, the 28-year-old had to wait in the wings, and at times you wondered how he could get into the side, but he is certainly showing the world what he can do in white-ball cricket, as he has done in the longer form of the game.
Although there is room for all three of them in the England team, he is essentially competing with Surrey’s Jason Roy and Alex Hales of Nottinghamshire for a place at the top of the batting order.
Bairstow has a wider range of ability than the other two, who are more suited to one-day cricket, and he just bangs out runs, similar to Kane Williamson of New Zealand or indeed England Test skipper Joe Root.
Even when he wasn’t a fixture in the side and played only sporadically, he tended to deliver and that shows the fight within him and the desire he has to play all formats. The Bradford-born wicketkeeper-batsman is yet to open for England in a Twenty20 international, where Hales and Roy have been the dominant force, but knowing the type of determined character he is I’m sure he’ll be eyeing one of those slots as well.
In terms of the match itself, England will be kicking themselves after collapsing from 267-1to 335-9, before falling victim to a masterclass innings from Ross Taylor, who finished 181 not out.
New Zealand’s triumph levelled the series at 2-2, leaving a winner-takes-all clash in Christchurch – a match which will conclude in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Similar to their showings in Test cricket, England have over the years tended to struggled away from home in the limited-overs format, although another win against the Black Caps would make it four overseas series wins out of the last five.
Downing Australia and New Zealand on their own turf in a matter of months would bode very well with the future in mind, especially looking through the prism of next year’s World Cup, albeit that’s on home soil.
This one-day squad has been exciting for a long time now. It’s good to see a level of consistency from series to series and them chalking up results overseas. Let’s hope that continues in Christchurch