ESPNcricinfo Awards 2022 Test batting winner: Jonny gets his freak on
136 vs New Zealand, Trent Bridge
This was the moment that "Bazball" became more than just a word, a vibe, a general sense of putting some songs on the boom box during nets. Bazball, it turned out, was being set 299 in the final two-and-a-bit sessions of a Test, and not only chasing it down but doing so with 22 overs to spare.
Bairstow's thunderous hundred, the second fastest in Tests for England, provided the crescendo to a raucous, run-filled five days in Nottingham. New Zealand scored 553 in their first innings and probably thought they were safe, even after England replied with 539 at 4.20 an over. A stuttering second dig saw them bowled out on the morning of day five, and Ben Stokes' side swiftly set about redefining the thrill of the chase.
It wasn't smooth going initially, and at 93 for 4 the outcome seemed in the balance. Bairstow and Stokes consolidated (by adding 46 in nine overs), before walking out after the tea break with a clear-eyed sense of purpose. The requirement was a further 160 in 38 overs. "Don't try to hit 'em down," said Stokes.
Bairstow obliged, launching a flurry of murderous pulls and booming drives. Matt Henry and Trent Boult were cannon fodder as 59 runs bled from four post-tea overs and the momentum shifted for good. Bairstow narrowly missed breaking an England record that had stood for 120 years, but his 136 off 92 was an archetypal modern one-day innings (except it came against a red ball on a fifth-day pitch). England completed their chase in exactly 50 overs. Bazball had landed.
The gloves came off straight after the tea break, as Bairstow twice crunched pulls off Henry to the short boundary on the Bridgeford Road side of the ground. Boult was then larruped over long-off, before Bairstow doubled down on Stokes' advice: Henry twice fetched into the stands in the next over and the same treatment meted out to Boult the one after, as it rapidly became clear New Zealand were not going to escape with the draw.
77 Balls it took for Bairstow's hundred, one slower than Gilbert Jessop's England record, which has stood since 1902
179 Partnership runs between Bairstow and Ben Stokes, from 20.1 overs
What they said
"I had a cheese-and-ham toastie and a cup of coffee, and I came out and Ben at the other end said, 'Don't even think about trying to hit one down. Hit it into the stand.'"
- Bairstow on his approach to the final session
"Something we say in the dressing room - he had his 'Jonny eyes' on today and when he gets those eyes on, you know you're on to something."
- Ben Stokes
The closest contenders
106 vs India, fifth Test, Edgbaston
If it was the summer of Baz, it was also the summer of Jonny. Bairstow's third consecutive century - soon to be followed by a fourth in England's successful chase of 378 at Edgbaston - was a two-paced affair that staved off complete collapse against India's marauding quicks. From 16 off 65 balls, he roared to 100 off 119 in a controlled counterattack that laid the platform for England's second-innings heist.
200 vs South Africa, second Test, MCG
Playing in his 100th Test, Warner put South Africa's attack to the sword on a sweltering, 37-degree day in Melbourne. His third Test score of 200 or more came after almost three years without reaching triple-figures, and was a masterclass of controlled aggression and fitness: in addition to 16 fours and two sixes, he ran 63 singles, 14 twos, seven threes and three fours.
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick