Saturday, June 25, 2022

The Brendon McCullum revolution is underway – Test cricket doesn’t get much better than this

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England went into the final day requiring 299 from 72 overs, a feat they managed splendidly thanks to Jonny Bairstow

TRENT BRIDGE – If this is England’s new Red Ball era, then drink it in because Test cricket doesn’t get much better than this.

2nd Test, Day Five – England 539 & 299-5 (Bairstow 136, Stokes 75* | Boult 3-94) Defeat New Zealand 553 & 284 by any means necessary (Mitchell 62*, Young 56 | Wide 3-70) at five gates

Just ask Ben Stokes, who rated this phenomenal win as his team chased a record 299 on this ground with 22 overs left, higher than even his 2019 Headingley Ashes masterpiece.

No wonder the 17,000 spectators on that final day at Trent Bridge, all admitted free, staggered away from this second Test in disbelief.

After all, this was a team that, prior to the appointment of Brendon “Baz” McCullum as manager and Stokes as captain, had won one of 17 Tests coming into this series against the world champions.

They had also been in serious danger of losing that match, being 56-3 after the early loss of Joe Root and 93-4 after the death of Alex Lees.

Nobody saw this coming. At the tea, the competition was so delicately balanced that it was impossible to call. By that point, England needed 160 more runs in 38 overs to seal a first Test winning streak in 18 months.

Just 84 minutes later, they were galloping home with five wickets thanks to one of the most remarkable Test centuries you’ll ever see from Jonny Bairstow.

England’s No. 5 has long been one of the best white ball batters in the world. Here he channeled his short-term power play into a hard-to-believe test slam for the ages, clubbing an astounding 93 after the break of just 44 balls to go from 43 to 136.

As Bairstow tackled New Zealand’s shocked bowling attack, he also sacked England’s second-fastest Test century – at 77 balls – and just missed by a single delivery to equal Gilbert Jessop’s record set in 1902.

This wasn’t a Test match innings, it was a brutal attack. It was outrageous, frankly – the Yorkshireman hit 10 fours and seven sixes in the final session to effectively end this match as a contest.

Bairstow, whose late return from the Indian Premier League may not have been such a disadvantage, admitted afterwards that he had approached it like a one-day inning.

Remarkably, he actually hit more sixes in that stroke than in his 139 innings on that ground against Australia in 2018 in a game that saw England equal the international record in one day.

With Bairstow finished, tamely trailing Trent Boult, England needed just 27 to win. It was already done and Stokes completed it shortly afterwards with a four from cover and a punch in the air – a replica of the famous winning moment against Australia at Headingley three summers ago.

What makes it all the more extraordinary is the fact that after an eight-inning run, Bairstow came into that inning without a fifty with whispers about his place on the team. Now he has his ninth Test hundred and one that neither he nor anyone else present at Trent Bridge will ever forget.

The greatest compliment one can give Bairstow is the fact that he made Stokes play second fiddle during a turbocharged, game-changing stand of 179 that came in just 121 balls.

After adding 62 runs for their last three wickets in the morning, New Zealand ensured their opponents would have to beat the previous record of 284 Test run chases on this ground in the fourth innings, set by England – also against the Black Caps – in 2004 .

There were 72 overs to get the runs – an odds of 4.2 per over.

What you all need to know about England’s changed attitude under the new regime is the fact that it’s only been a year since they didn’t even bother chasing 273 in 75 overs against New Zealand at Lord’s. Gone is the old regime’s timid, passive approach.

Things are different now and it’s no surprise as McCullum still holds the record for fastest Test hundred (54 balls).

As the New Zealander lounged casually on the balcony, sipping a beer and watching the post-game presentations, he looked like a man completely unfazed by what had just stunned the rest of us.

This is baseball. We all better get used to it.

Stokes hailed his team’s remarkable win in the second Test against New Zealand in Nottingham as his greatest triumph as an English cricketer, insisting he had ‘blown away’ victory in the 2019 World Cup final and victory at Headingley Ashes a few weeks later.

England chased 299 with 22 overs to go at Trent Bridge thanks to a 77-ball century from Bairstow to seal their first Test series win in 18 months.

It also ensured Stokes got his captaincy off to a perfect start and the all-rounder admitted it had surpassed his two triumphs from 2019, guiding England to that famous World Cup final win over New Zealand at Lord’s and a famous one-wicket win over Australia inspired at Leeds later that summer.

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