Sunday, June 26, 2022

Stokes says New Zealand are winning better than the World Cup and Headingley’s exploits

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England captain Ben Stokes claimed the sense of exhilaration as he and Jonny Bairstow conjured up one of the most egregious chases in Test history was even better than his Ashes miracle at Headingley or his exploits in the World Cup final.

New Zealand was in control after posting a huge first-innings total of 553 in the second LV= Insurance Test at Trent Bridge but left the field battered and injured on day five after England to a truly remarkable five-wicket win had yelled.

England had needed 299 in 72 overs and looked to unravel when Stokes and Bairstow came together on 93 for four.

What followed was a counter-attack to rival anything seen before, with Bairstow unloading a 77-ball century and finishing with 136 in 92 balls.

He shared an impressive 179 with Stokes, who finished the result – and the streak – with an unbeaten 75 from 70 deliveries.

Incredibly, he hit winning runs from the last ball of the 50th after turning a tense situation into a walkthrough.

Stokes knows better than anyone what it’s like to be in the middle of a historic feat, having pulled England across the finish line in nerve-wracking fashion in the 2019 World Cup final and then leading a record-breaking chase against Australia just a few weeks later in Leeds.

And for him it was the best so far.

“Yeah, it is. It blows Headingley, it blows Lord’s and the World Cup final. It was incredible,” he said.

“I’m struggling to find the words for what we saw out there, it was just phenomenal. I just can’t quite imagine how we were chasing 299 with 22 overs on day five of the Test match when we had to bowl 15 overs this morning.

“That will never happen again, but if it does, we probably will.

“The sky’s the limit with this group of players, but we could probably go further.”

Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum have been preaching a positive message since their appointment earlier in the summer, but the nature of that success provided definitive substance.

The men at the top have had the talk and a team that seemed to have run out of luck after a terrible winter in Australia and the West Indies are already making their way.

“I’ll put it plainly, we either won or lost this game,” he said, confirming that a tentative draw was never on the menu.

“The message was simply driven into fear of the game rather than standing still or backing away from it. When you have the coach’s support and I say what we say, don’t be afraid to fail.

“This friendly is probably going to be all about that final day, but you don’t win friendly games in the last session of day five without all the hard work you put in the first four.”

Stokes paid tribute to hosts Nottinghamshire who made the decision late in the evening of night four to allow free entry to see the final day, drawing a sell-out crowd who roared the team to victory.

It was a wise decision that filled the stands with fans who did their part to elevate the occasion.

Stokes added: “Notts must be given a lot of credit for what they did today. Having a full house here in Trent Bridge really adds to the atmosphere.

“You can really feel the home crowd and it gives the opposition the feeling that the whole world is above them. If we had a half-full stadium today, it wouldn’t have felt like it was out there. It was real playing it to a full audience.

“It would have been hard for people not to enjoy what they experienced here.”

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