Jonny Bairstow accepts England may now have a target on their backs after becoming world champions but the Yorkshireman insists they are capable of rising to the challenge.
England are set to start the cycle towards the next World Cup in India in 2023 with three one-day internationals in South Africa, the first of which in Cape Town on Tuesday could see spin twins Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid rested.
The pair were crucial in England’s march from also-rans to top dogs but, with an eye on the future, promoting youth could be a feature against the Proteas, and leg-spinner Matt Parkinson could make his ODI debut at Newlands.
One player who will retain his place is Bairstow, who made a blistering 100 from 83 balls in England’s final warm-up against a South Africa Invitational XI at Paarl.
While he still embraces England’s crowning glory at Lord’s last year, he knows any of their opponents in the next few years will be eager to prove themselves.
He said: “It’s lovely (to call myself a world champion). At the same time now you have got a title on your head that makes people, even more so now, want to beat you.
“It’s part and parcel of where we are now and we have to think about how we evolve as players to try to get into the best possible shape to move forward in this series, the next one and those going forward.
It’s lovely (to call myself a world champion). At the same time now you have got a title on your head that makes people, even more so now, want to beat you.Jonny Bairstow
“Everyone is going to come hard at us, South Africa to start with and then all the way through whoever we are playing against are going to want to beat us.”
Asked whether England are capable of further improvements, Bairstow added: “Yes I do. The line-up we have is exciting. It is pinpointing areas you can evolve in different conditions.
“The next World Cup is in India so it will be different again to what we have played on previously. It might be just utilising how we play spin and rotating against different bowlers.”
Bairstow returned to form in a match that had a bizarre ending at Boland Park.
England posted 340 for seven and were cruising when their opponents reached 103 for three after 20 overs but an agreement between the teams left them with a chase of 85 from 60 balls.
The result was therefore largely irrelevant – their hosts chased down their notional target – but ahead of Tuesday’s first ODI in Cape Town, there were a number of pleasing outcomes, namely Bairstow’s contribution.
Bairstow has endured a miserable past few months and was dropped for the final three Tests against the Proteas amid a sequence of dwindling returns in the format, but he remains first-choice in England’s 50-over side.
He was terse when asked about his Test fortunes, adding: “I am concentrating on Tuesday, opening the batting and keeping wicket in white-ball. That’s at the forefront of my mind. Then we reassess and go again.”
The ODI opener against Quinton De Kock’s side will see Bairstow playing for the first time at Cape Town since registering a maiden Test hundred on England’s last visit to South Africa four years ago.
He said: “It is an amazing backdrop and it is an amazing place to play cricket. It is so scenic and hopefully there will be a decent crowd in and it will be another special day.
“It will be lovely. It will be great to play at Newlands in a one-day game. It is a special place to play any format.”