JONNY BAIRSTOW made a brilliant 86 not out and made sure England’s much-heralded batting line-up swept to victory against South Africa.
The Yorkshire star's runs came from just 48 balls as England won the first Twenty20 match in Cape Town by five wickets.
It was a typical Bairstow performance – scoring runs when desperate to prove a point, something he's done it several times in the past.
The flame-haired Yorkshireman wants to open the batting in England’s T20 team but he was pushed down to No4 in an order containing a cluster of big-hitters.
He knows he will almost certainly need to continue to prosper in the middle-order to keep his place in the team.
And this was a fabulous start as he combined raw power with expert timing and placement.
Bairstow rescued England after they endured a horror start in their pursuit of 180 for victory and tumbled to 34-3 in the sixth over.
He and Ben Stokes put on 85 for the fourth wicket but then Stokes hoicked a half-tracker from Tabraiz Shamsi straight to long-on and departed for 37 from 27 deliveries.
The game was in the balance but then left-arm seamer Bueran Hendricks conceded 28 runs – eight of which were from wides – from the 17th over of England’s innings.
Sam Curran removed any doubt when he struck his second ball from fast bowler Kagiso Rabada straight for six.
It meant they needed just seven from the final over and Bairstow completed the job with a four and then a six.
It was an ideal start for England as they begin their build-up in earnest for the T20 World Cup in India next October.
Jason Roy’s vulnerability against spin at the start of the innings was again exposed when he edged to the keeper as he aimed a cut shot against George Linde.
Roy now has 49 runs in his last seven international innings.
It was the perfect start for left-arm slow man Linde on his international debut. Linde finished with 2-20.
When Jos Buttler and Dawid Malan were both dismissed cheaply, England were 34-3 and in big trouble.
But Bairstow and Stokes turned things around, with the former's match-winning innings came on the same ground where he scored an emotional maiden Test century in 2016.
Earlier, Tom Curran was preferred to the extra pace of Mark Wood but the Surrey man was plundered for 55 runs from his four overs, including 24 from one over by Faf du Plessis.
Curran’s brother, Sam, was successful in taking pace off the ball on the slow pitch and finished with three wickets.
Former skipper du Plessis top-scored for the Proteas with 58 from 40 deliveries before holing out to deep square leg.
The players were wearing black armbands after South African president Cyril Ramaphosa asked for five days of national mourning for the victims of gender-based violence and Covid-19.
The second game of the three-match T20 series is in Paarl on Sunday.
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