The tourists asked their opponents to bat first at the Seat Unique Stadium and soon found themselves on the end of some fierce punishment as 20 sixes rained down – a new English record that added five to the previous mark.
Bairstow, who had started the day by rubbishing speculation over his participation due to a swollen knee, was responsible for eight of the maximums as he pummelled the Proteas in a dazzling 53-ball knock that continued his sterling summer across the formats.
He had come to the crease at 41 for two after Lungi Ngidi removed openers Jos Buttler and Jason Roy in the powerplay and dazzled the crowd all the way through to the penultimate ball of the innings.
The 32-year-old had taken strike needing 10 runs off the last two deliveries from Ngidi and launched the first of them high into the sky as he holed out.
Rilee Rossouw showed safe hands on this occasion but he had been one of the guilty parties as Bairstow was dropped on four separate occasions – on 12, 57, 72 and 77 – in a ragged display from a South Africa side who repeatedly dropped short and missed their lengths.
Bairstow shared a dominant stand of 106 in 37 balls with Moeen, who cleared the ropes six times and hit them on three occasions as he reeled off England’s fastest-ever half-century in T20 cricket.
Tabraiz Shamsi was all over the place as he leaked 49 runs from three wicketless overs and Andile Phehlukwayo saw his figures vandalised when he fourth over was pounded for 33. England scored five sixes from six legal deliveries, two for Bairstow and three in a row from Moeen, with two wides and a single off a Reeza Hendricks drop completing the pain.