STEVE PATTERSON has hailed “phenomenal” Jonny Bairstow as one of the best limited-overs opening batsmen in world cricket at present.

Yorkshire’s four-day captain has heaped praise on a 31-year-old who has only been opening the batting regularly against the white ball since the start of 2017.

He has shone for Yorkshire, is a one-day World Cup winner with England and is currently enjoying an impressive Indian Premier League campaign in the UAE with Sunrisers Hyderabad, having scored 316 runs in nine innings, including a best of 97.

Bairstow’s move in 2017, ahead of a one-day Champions Trophy campaign on home soil, however, has come with the reward of England’s biggest limited-overs achievement in the form of last year’s World Cup triumph.

As a middle-order player around three-and-a-half years ago, Bairstow was finding it hard to break into England’s white-ball sides, with the likes of Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali all going great guns and blocking Bairstow’s middle-order path.

The most obvious way in was as an opener. But, with Jason Roy and Alex Hales as the first-choice combination, even that was not an easy task.

But Bairstow has never shied away from a challenge - and ahead of a return to Yorkshire colours for the start of the 2017 Royal London one-day Cup, he was given an opener’s berth and scored 268 runs in five innings.

The standout was a stunning 174 off 113 balls in a group win over Durham at Emerald Headingley when the Vikings chased down 336 to win by six wickets with 14 balls to spare.

“It came about because Jonny was very aware that if he was going to get in the England white-ball sides, it had to be towards the top of the order,” recalled Patterson.

“He had a conversation with the club and said, ‘This is what I’d like to do, would you allow me the opportunity?’ And the club did so.

“That Durham game, he was outstanding, making a very difficult chase look pretty easy. He’s never looked back.”

Bairstow’s first foray into opening for England came in the Champions Trophy semi-final against Pakistan at Cardiff when he replaced out-of-form Roy. Though he only scored four in a defeat, he retained his place for a summer-ending one-day series against the West Indies and scored two hundreds.

He has since formed a dominant partnership with Roy in 50-over cricket, scoring two World Cup hundreds in 2019 and has also become a regular at the top of various T20 orders.

Patterson commented: “If you’d gone back five years ago and asked me about his development, I’d have said, ‘He’ll dominate against the red ball, but he’ll have limited opportunities against the white’. But now it’s gone the other way around.

“In white-ball cricket, he’s dominating and is one of the first names on any team sheet. In red ball, he’s had a few more difficulties.”

Asked if Bairstow is the best limited-overs opener in the world, Patterson said: “He’s certainly up there.

“I’m sure those who have stats to hand would throw some other names in there to rival him. But, on current form, he’d be one of your first choice picks if you had a blank piece of paper. He’s just phenomenal.”