The current Test wicketkeeper has been a brooding presence pushing from the fringes for much of the last two years, stepping in and out of the side to cover injuries and losses of form but never gaining a firm grip of any particular role.
But after being told to make his case as Alex Hales’s opening partner during this Royal London Series after patience with the explosive Jason Roy finally snapped, he went out and made a real statement.
The numbers of this match suggest a one-sided affair and they do not completely lie. West Indies were half-hearted throughout. But Bairstow anchored a perfectly timed chase with an authority that only his Test skipper, Joe Root, could match, reaching three figures in 97 balls as England chased down West Indies 204 with 67 balls to spare.
Give or take a few outings with Sam Billings in Bangladesh in 2016 when Hales opted out and other times when injuries have struck, Roy and Hales have been in situ since coach Trevor Bayliss took the England reins.
But Bairstow will now be looking to secure the job for the next two years – enough to reach the World Cup on home soil in 2019.
For West Indies, last night’s comprehensive defeat ensured that is a tournament for which they will have to pre-qualify against other Test-playing nations in a 10 team tournament.
As things stood they needed to beat England either 4-0 or 5-0 in this five match series to avoid having to go up against Ireland, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and a host of associate nations in a qualifier next September with the top two going through.
Last night’s match did not get underway on time with umpires and both captains unwilling to start on an outfield which they felt was unsafe with damp patches square of the wicket.
But with the sun beating down unbroken and a increasingly frustrated 15,000 crowd wondering what they expected when they scheduled an ODI in September, common sense finally prevailed.
In theory a match reduced to 42 overs should have played to West Indies strengths given their T20 pedigree, yet after electing to bat they proceeded to produce a bizarrely two-paced effort.
Its initial stages saw a predictable flurry of boundaries from the big-hitting Chris Gayle launching three big sixes in the first power play helping West Indies to 49 in the first seven overs.
But a failure to punctuate the big hits with any meaningful running between the wickets proved a serious failing throughout.
Despite Jamaican roots, running has never been Gayle’s strongpoint but his efforts his efforts might better have been captured with time-lapse photography rather than Sky’s high definition.
Gayle was dropped when he was yet to score – a relatively easy chance by Root at second slip off the bowling of Chris Woakes – but the same fielder made amends grabbing a difficult chance running back at cover.
In his defence, Gayle managed to hit some big shots as well which is more than could be said for most of the rest with only Jason Holder and the opener managing to more runs than balls faced.
In between there was stagnation which was partly down to England’s bowlers utilising smart variations of slower balls and partly down to West Indies’ lack of urgency.
Marlon Samuels was perhaps the biggest culprit, crawling his way to 17 in 46 balls before he was out, feathering Ben Stokes down the leg side to Jos Buttler, a decision given after England reviewed the not out decision.
Commendably Stokes chose not to send him on his way despite the long history of clashes between the pair although there is time in the series yet.
England were barely out of a canter at any stage responding to what was a below par total for all that their new opening partnership did not make it to the fifth over intact, Hales cutting Jerome Taylor to point.
A partnership of 125 between Root and Bairstow broke the back of the chase and although Root and Morgan were chipped out, the former for 54 and the latter continuing a poor run for 10, Bairstow provided a reassuring presence at the other end.