Bairstow, Stokes help England brush aside South Africa in first T20I

Sent into bat, South Africa posted a respectable 179 for six in its 20 overs, before claiming early wickets to have England in trouble in its reply. Then came Bairstow.

Jonny Bairstow smashed a brilliant unbeaten 86 from 48 balls as the England chased down 180 to beat South Africa by five wickets.   -  Getty Images

England's Jonny Bairstow bludgeoned a brilliant unbeaten 86 from 48 balls as the tourists chased down 180 to beat South Africa by five wickets with four balls to spare on a slow wicket in the first Twenty20 International at Newlands on Friday.

Sent into bat, South Africa posted a respectable 179 for six in its 20 overs, before claiming early wickets to have England in trouble in its reply.

But Bairstow, batting in an unfamiliar number four position, led the fightback as he sat deep in his crease and smashed nine fours and four sixes with the kind of exquisite timing few other batsmen found on the day.

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The win will be pleasing for captain Eoin Morgan, who said this week he did not know his best XI in the shortest format but could already have had some questions answered ahead of the second fixture in the three-match series in Paarl on Sunday.

South Africa's innings was anchored by the experienced Faf du Plessis (58 from 40 balls), who was especially brutal on Tom Curran (1-55), smashing the England seamer for 24 runs in his second over that contributed to the bowlers most expensive figures in international Twenty20 cricket.

Brother Sam Curran (3-28) exacted some family revenge when he had Du Plessis caught on the boundary by Chris Jordan and was the pick of the visitors attack with his career-best figures, and clever change of pace and ability to surprise with the short ball on a slow wicket.

Quinton de Kock (30 from 23 balls) and Rassie van der Dussen (37 from 28 balls) also provided useful runs for the home side.

England was in early trouble in their reply, losing Jason Roy (0) second ball to George Linde as South Africa took pace off the ball at the start of the innings.

When Jos Buttler (7) and Dawid Malan (19) fell the visitors had slumped to 34-3 in the sixth over. But Bairstow and Ben Stokes (37 from 27 balls) rallied, putting on 85 in 8.4 overs for the fourth wicket to drag England back into the contest.

England still needed 51 from the final four overs, but when Beuran Hendricks conceded 28 runs in his last over, the game swung heavily in its favour.

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Bairstow revels in role of Mr Versatile for England

Bairstow believes he can play a role anywhere amongst their top six batsmen after a magnificent match-winning performance in England's five-wicket victory over South Africa, his unbeaten 86 from 48 balls a perfect audition for next years T20 World Cup in India.

He batted at number four with England choosing to open with Jason Roy and Jos Buttler, who both failed on a slow wicket that was not easy for stroke-making.

"It is something you have to enjoy, having played different formats of the game, whether you are opening or batting at number six, you learn to craft your innings in different ways," Bairstow said at the post-match presentation.

"Different surfaces will change our (batting) order, but we are fortunate to have people who can come in and play different positions.

"The rate went up 13 (runs per over) at one point, but if you look at our lineup, we always feel we are in the game."

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Bairstows innings was particularly eye-catching given how most other batsmen struggled on the sticky surface.

"The ball bowled into the pitch was tricky, they were bowling a lot of slower balls. You have to try and maintain your weight forward, which is hard when it is pitched halfway down and they are bowling at 140 clicks (km per hour)," he said.

Bairstow might feel his performance is also some personal vindication having been dropped by the SunRisers Hyderabad at the end of the Indian Premier League.

"I was happy with how I played over there, even if I did not finish the tournament playing, which was disappointing," he said.

The second match in the three-game series against South Africa is in Paarl on Sunday.

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