The last time Jonny Bairstow played a significant innings for England he was praised to the skies as the next big thing. After that came nothing: a hapless struggle for runs in the glare of the big time.
In view of this it might be wise not to make too much of a fuss about his unbeaten 60 from 46 balls last night, his best innings for England since making 41 not out from 21 balls on his debut last September. The brutal but fair assessment would be that it was a jolly promising effort by a young man still at the start of his international career.
Whatever the conclusion, it took England to a highly competitive total in the second of three Twenty20 matches against Pakistan. Without his composed approach they might have fallen short enough to offer Pakistan a realistic aspiration of taking a 2-0 winning lead in the series. But 150 for 7 was always just out of reach. After the loss of early wickets a late old-time swagger by Shahid Afridi and Hammad Azam was insufficient to imperil England.
England won by 38 runs with Pakistan being dimissed for 112 with 10 balls of the match left. There were three wickets for Steve Finn (when aren't there these days?), two forStuart Broad and some more splendidly tight, intelligent bowling from Graeme Swann. He might have left it late but Swann is having solid end to this tour.
Bairstow was a shoo-in for man of the match. He also took sure-handed catches in the deep and England's fielding was once more pretty top notch. So the series stands at 1-1 with the decider tomorrow.
Coming in at 49 for 3, the sort of position in any innings when it can go either way, Bairstow never went along at less than a run a ball. He clipped his singles, made some of them into twos and at last found a way of bisecting the field.
The chief asset of the innings was that he kept calm, waited for the ball and hit it sweetly. There were noespecially big overs after England's initial blast but Bairstow had the presence of mind to hit a six off Umar Gul, the best T20 bowler in the world, off the penultimate ball.
Had Bairstow found a colleague to help him establish a substantial partnership, England might have been across the desert and far away to Abu Dhabi for the third and final match before they knew it. But he did not. The nearest thing was his pairing with Samit Patel, with whom he put on 39.
Patel played some smart cricket until he was run out by the squeakiest of margins when going for two. The rather limp manner in which he tried to make his ground at the last put observers in mind of the old dictum that fat guys can't dive.
Unquestionably the saddest sight was that of Jos Buttler being dismissed for a second match in succession playing his flip-cum-scoop shot. Caught at short fine leg in the first match failing to make firm enough contact, he did not manage to lay bat on Umar Gul last night and was bowled. But at least he waited eight balls to play the stroke. As he left, doubtless feeling a little foolish, he might have wondered if he should put the shot back in the locker for a match or two.
Equally, however, it was what got him here in the first place. Now that he is here, of course, he is finding that the place is populated by clever, skilful, cunning coves like Umar Gul.
When Buttler dropped Umar Akmal early in Pakistan's innings, his night got worse. But a well-judged catch off a steepler from Hammad will have reminded him that the game has its good moments.
England won toss
K P Pietersen c Umar Gul b Saeed Ajmal 17/13/3/0
†C Kieswetter c Umar Gul b Shahid Afridi 31/24/2/1
R S Bopara lbw b Umar Gul 1/4/0/0
E J G Morgan lbw b Mohammad Hafeez 9/7/2/0
J M Bairstow not out 60/46/5/2
S R Patel run out (Saeed Ajmal) 13/13/1/0
J C Buttler b Umar Gul 7/8/1/0
*S C J Broad b Aizaz Cheema 2/2/0/0
G P Swann not out 2/3/0/0
Extras (lb5 w3) 5
Total (for 7, 20 overs) 150
Did not bat J W Dernbach, S T Finn.
Fall 1-35, 2-38, 3-49, 4-79, 5-118, 6-132, 7-137.
Bowling Mohammad Hafeez 4-0-25-1, Aizaz Cheema 4-0-31-1, Saeed Ajmal 4-0-20-1, Umar Gul 4-0-31-2, Shahid Afridi 3-0-28-1, Shoaib Malik 1-0-10-0.
Mohammad Hafeez c Pietersen b Finn 0/2/0/0
Awais Zia c Dernbach b Broad 6/12/0/1
Asad Shafiq c and b Dernbach 1/5/0/0
†Umar Akmal c Morgan b Finn 19/12/2/1
Shoaib Malik c Bairstow b Swann 12/11/0/0
*Misbah-ul-Haq c Bairstow b Swann 13/24/1/0
Shahid Afridi c Morgan b Broad 25/23/2/1
Hammad Azam c Buttler b Bopara 21/15/3/1
Umar Gul c Kieswetter b Finn 10/4/1/1
Saeed Ajmal run out (Finn) 0/0/0/0
Aizaz Cheema not out 0/3/0/0
Extras (lb11 w2 nb1) 14
Total (18.2 overs) 112
Fall 1-0, 2-2, 3-30, 4-32, 5-50, 6-74, 7-98, 8-111, 9-111.
Bowling S T Finn 4-0-30-3; J W Dernbach 3-0-13-1, S C J Broad 3.2-0-12-2, G P Swann 4-0-17-2; R S Bopara 3-0-23-1, S R Patel 1-0-17-0.
Umpires Ahsan Raza (Pak) and Zameer Haider (Pak).
Man of the match J M Bairstow (Eng)
England win by 38 runs; three-match series tied 1-1.