Bairstow revels in return to form
Jonny Bairstow's Cardiff follow-up has been five months in the making, but it was worth the wait for his match-winning maiden international 50 in Dubai tonight.
Bairstow displayed maturity far beyond his 22 years, and world-class potential - just as he had on his England debut against India last September - to make an unbeaten 60 from number five.
The young Yorkshireman had to both correctly assess a likely winning total, and then make sure England reached it against the spin variations of Saeed Ajmal and the searing yorkers of Umar Gul.
It was the latter which had undermined the tourists' run chase in the first match of the series, also at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium two days ago.
But this time Bairstow had all the answers as he underpinned England's 150 for seven, a target which proved 38 runs too many for Pakistan as Steven Finn finished with 3-30.
Gul conceded almost eight runs an over - and although Ajmal went for only 20 in his four, the off-spinner could not add to the wicket of Kevin Pietersen which he took with only his second ball.
England were therefore always in control, on their way to a series-levelling victory which leaves all to play for in the final match of three in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
Bairstow was previously unable to consolidate his startling debut, in seven limited-overs innings for England since completing last summer's 3-0 one-day international series win over India. But it was very different tonight, and he is not the only one who can be very confident there is plenty more to come.
“I was really pleased with the way it went and hope we can go on from here," he told Sky Sports.
Bairstow was modest nonetheless about his own contribution, preferring to point out that Craig Kieswetter's 31 at the top of the order was also a significant element to England's useful total.
“I was pretty pleased to get those runs, but it had all been set up really,” he added. “Craig played really well first up. That set up a platform for us."
As for Ajmal, the scourge of England in their unexpected 3-0 Test series defeat here, Bairstow believes improvements have been made in taming that threat too.
“He's obviously a world-class bowler, but the boys have played him pretty well in the last couple of games. We've been talking about it, and I think we're coming through with that,” reasoned Bairstow.
England bowled well enough too, but captain Stuart Broad identified their fielding as key.
Bairstow took two well-judged outfield catches - and among seven more there were crackers from Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and Jade Dernbach.
“In the field we were faultless,” Broad told the BBC's Test Match Special.
“I think we put one half-chance down. But if you have that sort of fielding display it really does put pressure on the opposition, and I think Pakistan felt that.”
England will therefore set off tomorrow for the last match of an arduous tour safe in the knowledge that, however they fare in Abu Dhabi, their number one Twenty20 ranking will be safe after at least one win out of three in the United Arab Emirates.
Broad is confident too that England's strength in all three departments gives him an enviable freedom when it comes to tactics.
“The great thing is we don't have to rely on bowling or batting first,” he said.
“We know we have the skills to do both and the responsibility in both batting and bowling line-ups to throw the first punch.”