England’s stand-in captain Jos Buttler has backed top batsman Jonny Bairstow to become the country’s leading century scorer after his 124 against India helped England level the series going into Sunday’s final game.

Bairstow – with Ben Stokes’ 52-ball 99 – powered England to victory in the second of the three-game series, and he said afterwards that he wanted to have the most one-day hundreds for England.

He now has 11 centuries from 85 games, five behind Joe Root, who leads with 16, and just behind Marcus Trescothick on 12 and Eoin Morgan on 13.

“Jonny has been in unbelievable form for the last few years for us, he has been one of the world’s leading batsmen in ODI cricket and he has been amazing to watch,” said Buttler, who is replacing the injured Morgan as captain.

Buttler said the England team wanted to push back “boundaries” with their attacking play and the record was there for the taking for Bairstow, who has been in the world’s top 10 for several years.

“It is fantastic the form that Jonny is in and there is no reason why he should not go on and break all those records.”

The batsman has been unable to pin down a regular Test place but has become a first choice in limited overs.

“He is certainly not under-appreciated in our side,” said Buttler. “He is our leading player really.”

“He is very intimidating to bowl at. I know having played against Jonny in the IPL, in the bowlers’ meeting they say ‘what shall we do to this guy’ and there are not too many answers to be honest.

“He is hugely appreciated in our side and I think everyone knows what a special player he is.”

After being hammered in the first game, England’s batting fireworks to level the ODI series have made Sunday’s final game of the tour another playoff after the T20 series also went to the wire.

“It’s great to be in another final,” said Buttler. “They are great games to be involved in.”

“It was an excellent performance yesterday so we take a lot of confidence into the game on Sunday.”

England, who still have injury doubts over fast bowler Mark Wood and batter Sam Billings, have an added incentive to win as the World Cup holders could lose the number one spot in the world rankings to India if they lose.

Buttler insisted that the pressure would not change their game plan.

“We want to push the boundaries of what we are capable of and live true to that,” he said.

“It is probably what I am most proud of as a member of this squad, that we got some criticism from the first game but we came out and played in exactly the same fashion.”

Intimidating Stokes

Stokes was promoted up the order in the first two ODIs and he roared back to form in the second outing smashing 99 with 10 sixes.

“He is an intimidating guy to bowl at and may that form continue into tomorrow and as a fellow Rajasthan Royal (team-mate) into the IPL,” the 30-year-old wicket-keeper said on the eve of the series-deciding third ODI against India.

Buttler was very impressed with Stokes’ batting at No 3 and how he has evolved as a player in the past few years.

“He (Stokes) has had a few (innings) and his World Cup final (80 odd) one was pretty good. But we all know the talent Ben has. I feel like his batting in the last few years has continued to improve and go to another level and we have seen that in all formats,” he added.

The skipper wasn’t surprised that Stokes did as well as he did batting in at No 3.

“It was impressive to watch how Ben (Stokes) always wants to bat. He is involved in the game as much as he can. It was fantastic to watch and it was no surprise that he played so well in that position,” Buttler said at the pre-match virtual press conference ahead of the third ODI.

The skipper said that with so many options available, it is only a given that all players would like to pay as many deliveries possible.

“And the same questions are asked, where I should bat, where Jonny (Bairstow) should bat, we have a wealth of talent at the moment in white-ball cricket and (there are) lots of guys, who want to face as many balls as possible, so it is no surprise that Ben played so well. It is a good headache to have for the guys in-charge,” he said when asked whether Stokes could also bat one-drop in T20s.

With AFP and PTI inputs