JONNY BAIRSTOW described the second day of the Cape Town Test as “probably the best day of my life” after finally scoring his maiden Test hundred.
The Yorkshire batsman hit 150 not out on his 22nd appearance – his first three-figure score after six half-centuries.
Bairstow shared in a world record sixth-wicket Test stand of 399 with Durham’s Ben Stokes, who clubbed a career-best 258 from 198 balls.
“It was probably the best day of my life and one I’ll never forget,” said Bairstow, who made his runs from 191 deliveries.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs, so it was a special day not just for myself but the people and my family that have helped me along the way.
“It was always going to be emotional, what with my grandpa passing away last year and it approaching the anniversary of my dad’s death, so I am delighted to score my century in the New Year’s Test.”
Bairstow, 26, has been in and out of the England Test team since making his debut against the West Indies at Lord’s in 2012.
The batsman-wicketkeeper had found himself behind Matt Prior and Jos Buttler in the pecking order, but this innings will help him cement his place as England’s first-choice pick in that position.
“It has been a little while coming,” said Bairstow of his maiden Test hundred, which beat his previous best of 95 against the same opponents at Lord’s in 2012.
“There was a lot of talk here and there so I am delighted to get over the line.
“After everything that has gone on in the last year or so, it is fantastic to get over that line for me and my family.
“They have supported me all through my career, and to have them here in Cape Town is lovely and it is my mum’s birthday on the last day of the Test, so hopefully we can cap off a great game.”
Bairstow paid glowing tribute to Stokes, whose double hundred was the fastest by an Englishman in Test cricket.
“Stokesy played unbelievably well,” he said.
“It was a pleasure to be at the other end, and it was an exhibition of strokeplay.
“We just clicked in and supported each other all the way through.
“To play a knock like that is something quite spectacular.”