Jonny Bairstow finds his gruntle as England's middle-order matchwinner

Batsman stars in new role at No.4 as Eoin Morgan credits England for victory despite 'average' day

George Dobell
George Dobell
Jonny Bairstow insists he doesn't mind where he bats for England, as long as he has a role in the team.
Bairstow hit an unbeaten 86 from 48 balls - his highest score in T20I cricket - to carry England to a narrow victory with four balls of the game remaining in the first match of the series against South Africa in Cape Town
But he did it from No. 4 in the batting line-up having been demoted after England opted for Jos Buttler and Jason Roy as their openers and Dawid Malan as their No. 3. That left Bairstow - who is the only England player in the top 10 of the ODI batting rankings - batting outside the top three for the first time in more than two years and potentially facing a fight for his position with the likes of Joe Root and Sam Billings, neither of whom are in the team at present.
Given that this rejig came after he had lost both his place in the Test side and his full central contract, as well as being dropped by Sunrisers Hyderabad for the final rounds of the IPL, Bairstow could have been forgiven for expressing some disappointment. Instead, he said he is determined to use his experiences in a constructive manner.
"I think you've two choices," Bairstow, who made his maiden Test century on the same ground in 2016, said. "You can be disgruntled or you can use the experiences you've had previously - whether for England or at the IPL - and utilise them in the best way possible. I'm really happy with where my game is at. The calmness and composure was really pleasing. Seeing England over the line is important.
"I want to be playing cricket for England. I don't mind [where I bat]. As long as I'm contributing and putting in match-winning performances, so be it.
"I was really pleased with how I played tonight. It's a different role to what I've played previously, so going out and gaining confidence and contributing to winning the match is what it's all about. I was delighted with the pace in which we structured the innings. To win with three or four balls left… I'm really happy."
However, aside from Bairstow and a couple of colleagues - notably Sam Curran - England were not at their best. With 25 deliveries of the match remaining, they still required 55 runs and knew that, with Kagiso Rabada to deliver one of those overs, their chances were diminishing by the moment.
But then Beuran Hendricks bowled a horrible over - the 17th of the England innings - which occupied nine balls and cost 28 runs. Without it, England may have struggled to overcome what Eoin Morgan, England's captain, termed "an above-par score" set by South Africa.
For while Morgan declared himself "very pleased" with the victory, he was not allowing it to mask a performance he admitted was "pretty average".
"I thought we were pretty average apart from two or three guys," Morgan told Sky Sports. "And when you win games of cricket like that when you don't play your best cricket, it is very pleasing.
"There are areas with the ball that we missed; we were a tad too full in certain periods of the game. And then with the bat we were three-down early and did not build partnerships. But Jonny has had an unbelievably good day out on a wicket that was two-paced.
"When you win games like that and you've a lot [of improvement] to make up in all three facets [of the game] you can be pleased. I would imagine the more time we spend together and the more we play, the more we will get used to roles that we play and start to gel like we have in 50-over cricket. It is not doom and gloom but hopefully we will improve and progress in the next couple of games."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo