Bairstow slips into opener's role with maiden ODI hundred

Jonny Bairstow celebrates reaching three figures Getty Images

For a moment, Jonny Bairstow feared falling on 99 for the second time this season at Old Trafford.

During the Test series against South Africa, he was lbw on 99, sweeping at Keshav Maharaj, when a marginal call went the way of the fielding side. On this occasion, coming back for the third run which would ultimately bring him his maiden ODI century, he slipped but so too did the fielder in the deep and Bairstow was able to secure the landmark.

It had been a long wait - in time, if not volume of matches - for Bairstow to score an ODI hundred, having made his debut against India six years ago. However, this was only his 28th ODI - he largely drifted out of the reckoning for four years until 2015 and since then appearances have been sporadic due to the strength of England's one-day top order.

"I missed out earlier in the summer, so when I slipped coming back for the third, I thought 'oh, no, not again' but luckily it was slippy enough on the boundary for him to slip as well. I'm really pleased, it seems a long time since I made my debut in Cardiff."

Bairstow's latest chance has come as an opener, following Jason Roy's lean run of form which cost him his place for the Champions Trophy semi-final against Pakistan, and barring injury or rest he has earned himself a considerable run in the position. The remainder of this series is assured, and it's difficult not to see him doing it in Australia early next year.

It shouldn't be a great surprise that Bairstow has taken his opportunity so soon into his ODI opening career. He has rarely failed to prosper when called on in ODIs, but has often had to concede his place again when a player has returned from injury or rotation.

His previous best, a series-winning unbeaten 83 against New Zealand, at Chester-le-Street, in 2015 came after a late call-up; he made a half-century after coming into the side midway through the series against Pakistan last year; another fifty when he played one match in India in January; an unbeaten 72 against Ireland at Lord's when England were missing their IPL-based players, and 51 against South Africa, at Lord's, earlier this season when England had been 20 for 6.

He has certainly bided his time for a lengthy run in the side, but he isn't going to get ahead of himself after the century. "I'm not someone who ever looks too far ahead because you know how quickly things can change, you can get injured. I don't think you can see you'll get so many games, that's not professional sport. Everyone wants to have a run, but you know that on different pitches, different people will play. Whether it's right or wrong, tough decision or not, that's out of my pay grade."

There was one thing he had to keep half an eye on as his century approach - that Ben Stokes didn't finish the match with a string of boundaries. A straight six by Stokes left six runs needed for victory and Bairstow still three short of his hundred, but fortunately he had the strike at the start of the next over and Stokes promised to help him out.

"He was middle when I made my first Test hundred and he said I'll leave you to it. He said don't worry I'm backing up for two. I missed out on a couple then saw it go to the boundary and I knew he had his skates so I thought, let's keep going. Then there was the slip, so it didn't quite go to plan."