Jonny Bairstow, hair of red and nerves of steel, took England to an improbable victory in his first international match last night. It was an emphatic statement of glorious talent which yielded 41 runs from 21 balls.
Without Bairstow's consummately clinical contribution, England might well have lost the fifth and final one-day international to India in Cardiff. As it was, they won by six wickets with 10 balls to spare and ensured that India went home having lost eight matches to England without reply.
When India made 304 for 6 in their 50 overs, in which Virat Kohli made 107 in a blaze of vibrant strokeplay, it seemed they must at last notch a win. But England, their chase reduced in yet another rain affected match, hardly faltered in their pursuit.
They were rarely behind the rate – but then with fewer than nine overs left they were suddenly struggling. Two wickets fell in successive overs and Bairstow, who had been called into the squad as cover the previous night, found himself walking to the wicket with 75 runs needed and fewer than eight overs to get them.
From the assertive way he marked his guard and then took an easy single from his first ball he never put a wrong. He pulled his fifth ball in international for six and then took 15 runs in an over from Ravi Jadeja. He hit two more sixes, one out of them out of the ground.
It was the calmly assured manner in which Bairstow went about his business that made the innings outstanding. Ravi Bopara, who helped him to put on 75 in 40 balls, was also authoritative once more and in the closing overs it never seemed that England would do anything else but chase down their goal. Jonathan Trott, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, out again carelessly, all played their parts but it was Bairstow who stole the show.
India, to their credit, assembled a total which seemed quite enough. They firmly rebuffed any implications that they were not only on the road to Heathrow but also settling into business class.
The innings was paced perfectly. Kohli rather stole the thunder of the great Rahul Dravid, who was playing the 344th and last of his one-day internationals. They put on 170 for the third wicket and accelerated delightfully.
It was Kohli's sixth one-day hundred, his first against England and at 22 he has the world, in a limited-overs sense, at his feet. It was an immensely assured innings, and although England are in the course of blooding a series of young men at present, it is difficult to imagine any of them having six international hundreds before turning 23. But from the thrilling way in which Bairstow played you would never know.
Surveying the scene, Kohli's first 50 took 54 balls, the second 33. He invariably looked as though he what he was doing. Still, he will have to be going some to have a career as plentiful, successful and plain dignified as Dravid's.
When Dravid was out, England's players dashed, quite rightly, to shake his hand. Dravid showed his measure at the very last. As Bairstow walked off, a hero and man of the match in his first international, Dravid walked smartly over to congratulate him.
Bairstow was awarded his cap before the match by fellow Yorkshireman, Geoff Boycott, and watched from the stands by his mother Janet, who drove down from the north. On his back he wore the number, to mark the year of birth of his late father, David, also a Yorkshire and England cricketer.
He did everything that could have been expected and more, treating all the bowlers with similar disdain. India's bad luck continued to the end, with their fast bowler, Munaf Patel, having to leave the field with an ankle injury when he slipped in the outfield. But England continued to make their own luck and to have won the Test series 4-0 and the one-dayers 3-0 is triumph indeed.
Sophia Gardens Scoreboard
(One Day): England beat India by 6 wickets (D/L Method)
England won toss
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
P A Patel c Bresnan b Swann 19 0 0 39 68
A M Rahane c Finn b Dernbach 26 0 3 47 53
R Dravid b Swann 69 0 4 79 107
V Kohli hit wicket b Swann 107 1 9 93 101
S K Raina c Bresnan b Finn 15 1 0 15 36
*†M S Dhoni not out 50 2 5 26 35
R A Jadeja c Bopara b Dernbach 0 0 0 1 2
R Ashwin not out 0 0 0 0 4
Extras (b1 lb11 w6) 18
Total (for 6, 50 overs) 304
Fall: 1-52, 2-57, 3-227, 4-236, 5-284, 6-288.
Did not bat: R P Singh, R Vinay Kumar, M M Patel.
Bowling: T T Bresnan 9-0-62-0, S T Finn 10-1-44-1, J W Dernbach 10-0-73-2, G P Swann 9-0-34-3, S R Patel 8-0-55-0, R S Bopara 4-0-24-0.
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
*A N Cook b Kohli 50 0 5 54 108
†C Kieswetter lbw b Kumar 21 0 4 17 18
I J L Trott c Singh b Jadeja 63 2 3 60 122
I R Bell c Sub b Singh 26 2 0 21 25
R S Bopara not out 37 1 3 22 36
J M Bairstow not out 41 3 1 21 29
Extras (lb1 w1 nb1) 3
Total (for 4, 32.2 overs) 241
Fall: 1-27, 2-106, 3-160, 4-166.
Did not bat: S R Patel, G P Swann, T T Bresnan, S T Finn, J W Dernbach.
Bowling: R Vinay Kumar 6.2-0-42-1, R P Singh 7-0-51-1, M M Patel 4-0-26-0, R Ashwin 4-0-25-0, R A Jadeja 5-0-52-1, V Kohli 6-0-44-1.
Umpires: B C Doctrove and N J Llong.