“With four centuries in the last 16 innings, Bairstow has sealed one of the opening slots. With the ICC Cricket World Cup nearing, all England need to do is find Bairstow a suitable partner because a regular solid start by the openers is always a plus point to any team”.
“Sometimes change is what is needed.” The fate of England cricket team has witnessed major turn of events justifying this wise saying. And no one better than their wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow understands it.
The batsman went without an ODI hundred for 27 matches spread over six years since his debut in 2011. He was first roped into the side as a middle-order batsman who was played mostly at No. 6. He was tried and tested at No. 4 and No. 5 later on but Bairstow never managed to establish himself as a regular face in England’s ODI side. He never did anything huge for the team as a batsman hence he would be in and out of the playing XI on regular basis.
Tables turned around and how for Bairstow in 2017. He was ignored throughout the group stage of the ICC Champions Trophy at home. Ahead of the semi-final against Pakistan, Captain Eoin Morgan, who had team’s wellness in mind and in order to get positive results, decided to drop then misfiring Jason Roy and replaced him with Bairstow. It was not only Bairstow’s first appearance in the ICC event that edition but also it would be the very first time Bairstow would be facing the new white ball on the international level. Although Bairstow during the domestic season the same year had opened for his county side, Yorkshire, in the Royal London Cup hitting a career-best 174 from 113 balls against Durham, it still was not enough experience to deliver on the higher level.
Bairstow scored 57-ball 43 in the semi-final against Pakistan. Though eventual champions, Pakistan, knocked England out of the tournament, England had found a new solution for their opening conundrum. England then hosted West Indies immediately after the unsuccessful Champions Trophy campaign. They played five ODIs in which Bairstow top-scored in the end. The batsman, who did not have a single ODI ton prior to the series, finished the series with two ODI hundreds to his name and both came when Bairstow opened the innings for England. He scored his maiden ODI century in the series opener in Manchester where he remained unbeaten on 100. He also ended the series on a high note when he smashed a 141 not out off 114 balls and England triumphed 4-0 in the five-match series.
With with passing ODI series, England has just bettered its record. In the last seven ODI series, including the Champions Trophy, England have won six. Following the loss in the Champions trophy, England defeated West Indies at home followed by beating the likes of Australia and New Zealand in their respective backyards and away wins are always reckoned on the top of any victories. In the five-ODI series against Australia, Bairstow opened the innings in all the matches. Although he reached the 50-run mark only once, he did not completely fail as well. Apart from two ODIs, where he scored 14 and a duck, he managed to contribute with scores of 60, 39 and 44. That testified the fact that Bairstow helped England to give the starts but has had issues to convert those starts into a big knock.
Since England won the series 4-1, those concerns did not affect the team. However, Bairstow needed to find a solution to that at the earliest as England soon would face New Zealand for another series of five ODIs.
In the first three ODIs against New Zealand, Bairstow was quiet and that clearly showed his conversion problems still persisted. After he failed to reach even fifty runs in the first three matches, Bairstow made a huge statement in the next two matches that ensured England had the trophy to them in the end.
Had England won the fourth ODI in Dunedin, the series would have ended right there as England had already won two out of the first three games. Bairstow along with Joe Root recorded a century each and took England’s total to 335, which was a well decent score to be defended by a strong English bowling attack. However, Ross Taylor’s heroics on his birthday forced a decider in the fifth match. Bairstow’s third ODI century came in a losing cause in the fourth game but his fourth century would win England their ninth series in the last 11 series they have played.
In the decider and final match of the series, it was Chris Woakes who stood out for England. His three wickets and an economy of 3.20 restricted New Zealand for a mere 223 runs. Chasing that, Bairstow was at an absolute ruthless form against the new ball. It is fair to say that Bairstow punished the Kiwi bowlers in the Powerplay overs by the end of which England already had 65 runs on the board. He took 16 runs off Colin de Grandhomme’s third over and record his first fifty of the match off just 38 deliveries. He then hammered five sixes of eight balls from Ish Sodhi before he completed a 58-ball hundred. By doing so, he registered England’s third quickest ODI ton behind Jos Buttler (46 balls) and Moeen Ali (53 balls).
Batting in the middle-order in 27 matches, Bairstow never reached the three-digit mark. He now has opened innings 17 times in the ODIs and he already has four centuries. While he averaged in the 30s batting at No. 6, Bairstow’s average of almost 90 at No. 1 and 54 at No. 2 spoke volumes about what that one change has done to him. If his knock of 60-ball 104 was special, the end to it was just unfortunate. He smashed nine fours and six sixes before he smashed the stumps to get hit-wicket.
With four centuries in the last 16 innings, Bairstow has sealed one of the opening slots. With the ICC Cricket World Cup nearing, all England need to do is find Bairstow a suitable partner because a regular solid start by the openers is always a plus point to any team.