Jonny Bairstow insisted he had no intention of letting his ego get in the way after embracing his ever-changing role in the England set-up with a career-best Twenty20 innings against South Africa.
Bairstow has been shunted up and down the order across all three formats over the course of his career and found yet another new role at Newlands in the first match of the tour.
Moved down from his established role as a bludgeoning white-ball opener, the Yorkshireman dragged England back from 34 for three in pursuit of 180 and won the match with a wonderful 86 not out. It was the kind of knock that the sport’s finest finishers would be proud to call their own.
He showed huge reserves of intelligence, intuition and irrepressible hitting power, with nine fours and four sixes, including the decisive blow over long-on that sealed a five-wicket victory with four balls remaining.
“You’ve got two choices, you can be disgruntled by it or you can use the experiences you’ve had previously – in Test cricket, in one-day cricket, in T20s, in the IPL, for England – and put it all together in the best way possible,” he said.
“I’m really happy with where my game is at at the moment. I hope there is a calmness and a composure there and that evidently came across, which is really pleasing.
“Batting in a new position is something you have to enjoy. Having played different formats of the game in different positions, having previously opened the batting or batted at six, I think you learn to craft your innings in different ways. That is the thing that has stood me in good stead for batting at four.
Bairstow has previous form at the postcard-worthy ground in Cape Town, scoring his maiden Test century here five years ago.
This was a very different innings in a very different cause but makes for a fitting companion piece.
“I don’t know why but it seems to be one of my favourite grounds. I quite like that because it’s an amazing place to come and play cricket, as the sun goes down over Table Mountain,” he said.
Needing a steep 51 off four overs, Bairstow and Eoin Morgan hammered 28 off left-armer Beuran Hendricks to re-balance the scales in their favour. It was an advantage they would not allow to slip.
“It wasn’t a conversation we had to target him, but we felt that was the over we needed to go. Once the asking rates get to 15 or 16 it’s tough.
“I didn’t really register that we needed that many. We know we have guys who can clear the ropes down the order, but we needed that one big over.”