Jonny Bairstow

86 not out vs South Africa, Cape Town

All the build-up to England's T20I series in South Africa - their first at full-strength since Jofra Archer's qualification in early 2019 - had focused on their batting order. Jason Roy was locked in to open, with Jos Buttler alongside him, while Dawid Malan's near-flawless start to his T20I career made him a guaranteed pick.

Something had to give, and it was Bairstow who found himself down in the middle order. Some read it as him being the fall guy, squeezed out of his favoured position yet again; in fact, it reflected England's faith in his ability against spin, honed in part by two IPL seasons with the Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Chasing 180 in the series opener, England's reply had started meekly. Roy and Buttler fell for single figures, and Malan's dismissal in the sixth over left them 34 for 3. But with Ben Stokes for company, Bairstow launched a calculated assault: both men targeted the spinner who turned the ball into them - Tabraiz Shamsi for Bairstow, George Linde for Stokes - and Bairstow was brutal when the seamers missed their lengths. An open-faced lofted steer through third man for a one-bounce four off Beuran Hendricks was his best shot, though the six he muscled over midwicket to seal the win ran it close.

Key moment

Bairstow had 11 from ten balls when Shamsi returned for his second over, the ninth of the innings. Realising that he matched up well against a spinner whose stock ball spun into him, Bairstow cleared his front leg to crash a flighted, full-length ball over long-on for six, backing himself to clear the fielder on the rope.

Shamsi pushed the next ball wider outside the off stump, but the width allowed Bairstow to free his arms and slog-sweep violently over deep midwicket and onto the grass banks. Bairstow had put his foot down, and stayed in fifth gear for the rest of the night.

The numbers

37 Number of consecutive innings Bairstow had batted in the top three for England and the Sunrisers before this innings, before making an immediate impression in his new role at No. 4

145.48 Bairstow's IPL career strike rate against spin, a stat that influenced his shift into the middle order. Since Bairstow's debut in 2019, only David Warner has scored more runs against spin at a quicker rate in the tournament.

What they said

"You've got two choices: you can be disgruntled by it, or you can use the experiences that you've had […] and put all of them together and utilise them in the best way possible. The calmness and composure which evidently came across was really pleasing. If you can become a finisher batting at No. 4, then all of a sudden it becomes a very, very dangerous line-up."
Bairstow on his response to being moved down the batting order

The closest contender

Kieron Pollard, 75 not out vs New Zealand, first T20I, Eden Park
On the world's best batting pitch, West Indies lost five wickets for one run to slump to 59 for 5. Pollard, coming in at No. 6 inside the powerplay, moved to 21 off 16 balls before a rain delay reduced the innings to 16 overs, and he belted another 54 off 21 after the break. All told, he clubbed eight sixes - two each over long-off, midwicket, square leg and the wicketkeeper's head - and almost single-handedly dragged his side to a competitive total.

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Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98