“With the World Cup looming, the daunting England batting line-up is sure to give quite a few teams nightmares. That they are led from the front by two hurricane hitters who know to hold their wicket and smash to smithereens bowling attacks makes the side even more intimidating”
When England pushed Johnny Bairstow to open the ODI against Pakistan in the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy 2017, it was a stop-gap solution for Jason Roy’s sudden loss of form before the marquee event. Bairstow top-scored with 43 in a disastrous show from England that saw them eliminated from the tournament.
Bairstow literally had no place in a power-packed England top-order and fitting him into the limited-overs scheme of things seemed improbable a year back. A 97 ball unbeaten 100 in his second outing at the top helped his cause and gave England a conundrum with Alex Hales and Jason Roy the incumbents in the position.
In more than one manner, Bairstow’s promotion had to work in England’s favour. He seemed like the perfect antidote to Roy’s aggression. However, as it turned out, Bairstow used the opportunity to showcase what damage he could do up-front.
Since the first time he opened for England in ODIs, Bairstow and Roy are the most successful ODI opening pair with 924 runs in 15 matches at a mind-blowing average of 61.6 and a run rate of 7.11. This included 4 century stands and as many half-century stands.
Instead of being the cushion on which Roy could fall back on, the duo became partners on the offensive, regularly tearing apart bowling attacks with the characteristic disdain that has become a part of England’s batting these days in limited-overs cricket.
GET IN! Magnificent ? @jbairstow21!!! ?
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) June 19, 2018
The fact that the next best pair (Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka) are 300 odd runs behind the duo shows how they have been a class apart for England in ODIs. What is most interesting here is the rate at which they have managed to score these runs. A whopping 7.11!
No pair in this time period with a minimum of 50 runs has a better run rate. And Bairstow and Roy have almost nine times that many runs. It is striking that despite playing fifteen games, they have managed to keep the run rate at that level.
What has helped England, even more, is that if they haven’t clicked as a pair, at least one of them carries on and makes a difference at the top. In their partnerships of less than 100, there have been just three instances of both of them falling for a score less than 30. On the other hand, on three of these occasions, one of them went on to notch up a hundred and a massive one at that with scores being 180, 120 and 138.
On Wednesday, Roy and Bairstow took their carnage to a different level when they were met with a clueless Australian bowling attack and a flat road at Trent Bridge. The duo racked up 159, their highest partnership in this time frame, in less than 20 overs, placing the Australian bowlers at their mercy. If not for a disastrous run-out, Australia might never really have broken the pair.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) June 16, 2018
“I’ve got no idea [on his destructive form], to be honest with you,” Bairstow said after the game. “It’s just a case of relaxing and watching the ball. Each opposition gives you different challenges, each bowler gives you different challenges.”
As England smashed the highest ODI score, they barely seemed to face any challenge whatsoever. The platform was set for a humungous total by Roy and Bairstow, a sign of how England are planning their channel of attack in the upcoming World Cup.
A mere glance at Roy and Bairstow’s approach in the last few months gives a clear idea of what England aim to do in ODIs. They have a rather long batting line-up and being fearless up front is quintessential to optimise their potential. They have Alex Hales, another opener walking in at no.3 in case one of the two fail and like Roy and Bairstow, Hales can quite destructive on his day.
“Just keep the momentum going,” Hales says of his role in the side.
“I’ve got enough experience of playing here to know it’s a good pitch and a fast scoring ground. I know it like the back of my hand, so it’s nice to come in, get off to a decent start and build a partnership with Jonny. It gave us a real platform to do something special,” he added after smashing 147 himself walking in at no.3.
With the World Cup looming, the daunting England batting line-up is sure to give quite a few teams nightmares. That they are led from the front by two hurricane hitters who know to hold their wicket and smash to smithereens bowling attacks makes the side even more intimidating.