The 29-year-old becomes the first Englishman since Steve Harmison in 2004 to go top following a spectacular six for 17 in the third Test at The Wanderers on Saturday that helped Alastair Cook’s side take an unassailable 2-0 series lead.
“A guy that is 6ft 6in tall and charging in is an intimidating sight from 22 yards away,” the England coach said. “When he’s on, he’s on. And when he’s on a roll, it’s hard to stop him. Thankfully he’s still got a few years in front of him.
“I don’t take a lot of interest in the rankings; there are a lot of good bowlers around and on any one day any of them could be the best.
“But certainly on this performance he is the best in the world.”
Bayliss believes Joe Root’s ninth Test century, in a match that contained only two scores in excess of 50, merited him sharing the man-of-the-match award. “They could have halved it, I reckon, 50-50,” he said.
Root’s 110, with 58 from Ben Stokes, changed the course of the Test in England’s first innings and ended a run of five half-centuries by the vice-captain without converting to three figures.
“You can tell that he’s got that hunger to make hundreds and he is very disappointed to get out when he’s made a start,” Bayliss said.
“The best players look to make big hundreds; scores of 60 or 70 are not good enough for them.”
England’s seven-wicket win had one casualty. The fast bowler Steven Finn is set to miss Friday’s fourth Test in Centurion and possibly the one-day series that follows. He had a scan on a left side-strain on Sunday.
Bayliss said: “We’ll have to wait and see how bad it is and make a decision on the one-day and Twenty20 series. We’ll have to replace him with someone [for the fourth Test] and so thinking caps will be on for the next couple of days.”
England will chose between the reserve seamers Mark Footitt, Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes, with the latter likely to be at the front of the queue after playing in the first-Test victory at Durban when Jimmy Anderson was out injured.
Asked if the team would be tinkered with further in the dead-rubber finale, Bayliss said: “No, we want to win 3-0. Reading some of the articles after losing the final Ashes Test, we want to try and put that right.
“If you want to get to be the best team in the world, you do win series three, four, five-nil. That’s the challenge for these young blokes.”
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