Yet the demise of Bairstow sparked a awful England collapse and even though they mustered 335 for nine they were under par for conditions and gave New Zealand the chance to level what has been a brilliant 50-over series.
The win ties the five-ODI series at two apiece, and sends the two sides into a closely-matched decider in Christchurch on Saturday.
"It's right up there [as one of my best innings] and it was nice to be there at the end". The final score was 335; decent, but on a flat pitch at a small ground, not enough to stop Ross Taylor levelling the series.
On Wednesday, Taylor not just reached his 19th century but also surpassed his highest score of 131 and scored unbeaten 181 runs.
The 33-year-old came to the crease in the third over after openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro both fell for ducks, the latter a golden duck. Taylor hobbled during the second half of his unbeaten 181-run knock that came off just 147 deliveries with 17 fours and six sixes.
But he also found scoring hard as Williamson, back after missing a match with a hamstring strain, used his slower bowlers well through the middle of the innings.
Later innings of 29 from 23 balls by Jos Buttler and 23 from 19 balls from man-of-the-match Ali helped England to a total which proved to be just sufficient. In England, one can view matches on Sky Sports Cricket.
Bairstow clubbed some absolutely massive sixes.
Root himself was dismissed the over after going through to his 11th ODI century, and England were thankful for a flurry of boundaries from Tom Curran (22no) in the final over to take their total up to 335.
It barely slowed him down as he struck 14 fours and seven sixes on his way to his fastest one-day century, taking his average while batting at two to 53.50.
68- Runs scored by England's last eight wickets.
England were on target for over 400 until Sodhi chimed in with figures of 4-58. England regained the upper hand with a piece of good fortune, when Santner (41) was run out at the non-striker's end in the 46th over. Kane Williamson leads the way at 8/1, in the wake of his brilliant but futile hundred at Wellington, with Joe Root second favourite at 17/2.
Former New Zealand captain Jeremy Coney: "Taylor is a tough rooster, he really is".
The tone for the England innings had been set by a superb opening partnership of 77 in 10.2 overs between Roy and Bairstow and after Kane Williamson, captaining New Zealand for the 100th time, made a blunder and sent England in to bat. An outstanding performance from him.
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