WTC 2021-23, Eng vs NZ Tests: Bold Stokes and McCullum rub out fear of failure from new England side
WTC 2021-23, England vs New Zealand 2nd Test: Jonny Bairstow's 136, Joe Root's 176 and Ben Stokes' 75* are top three performances from ENG vs NZ, 2nd Test, Nottingham.
With a slap through the covers for a boundary, England’s new captain Ben Stokes lofted his hands in the air to celebrate the victory of the new England side at Trent Bridge to seal the three Test series against New Zealand by 2-0. England managed to chase the required 299 runs in just 50 overs with 22 overs still left on the final day. It just showed how the fear of failure has been taken out of the players’ workbooks.
It was totally the opposite scene at this ground only a year ago, when England, under Joe Root and Chris Silverwood, didn’t even contemplate a fair run chase on the last day of the Lord’s Test against the same opponent. With the risk of facing defeat, the home side decided to go into the shell and blocked out for a draw. It was too hard to imagine the same approach under Stokes and new head coach Brendon McCullum.
Bold attitude from England erased Stokes’ wrong decision at the toss
On a cloudy morning after winning the game at Lord’s inside three and a half days with the absence of opponent’s regular captain, Kane Williamson, Stokes decided to put New Zealand in at Trent Bridge to place more pressure. But the flow of runs on a good track with the lightning fast outfield propelled New Zealand to a good start and they ended up with a mammoth 553.
The way Daryl Mitchell left the ball early with a proper game plan against all the bowlers spelt out his attitude. But because England got a first innings score of 539 at a run rate of 4.2, it offered them a real chance and enough time to squeeze up a result even from that position.
The only thing England needed was packing up New Zealand before they would take the target over 300 and the latter expected to have at least 60-70 overs in hand to explore power-hitters like Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes.
There had been 96 occasions before this game when the team crosses 450 in the first innings of which the lion’s share of the results had ended in draws while the rest of them had ended in huge defeats for the opposition. Keeping all those things in mind, the way England chased 299 in just 50 overs drafted their new thinking.
Joe Root raises the bar again
When 553 runs are put on the board in the first innings, it becomes tough for the batters to come and get near to the first innings total to lay down any pressure on the rivals. When Joe Root arrived in the middle, England had already got a good start but they still needed something special from the top batter.
One of the best things about good batters is that they never waste time to get themselves going even in a Test match and Joe Root, in that first innings, reached 20 with few fours in a blink of an eye. With lightning speed, Root celebrated his fifty in no time. In the whole innings, he never dropped the speed of his knock.
Some of the shots that he played against a world-class NZ bowling attack spelt out sheer class and timing. With a boundary that was edged, Root graced his way to a back-to-back century. From 2019 to 2021, the Yorkshire player went 13 home Tests without a century but since breaking the run, it was his fifth century in the last six home Tests and overall 27th donning the white shirt; This is also his 10th century since the start of 2021.
He carried himself to the fourth morning and clubbed few aggressive shots in an aim to score fast. The six that he hit over the third man fielder off the fifth ball of the fourth day against Tim Southee just defined the form he is in. At last, he fell to a slower ball on 176 in just 211 balls at a strike rate of 83.41; it a class innings that was arranged with 26 boundaries and one six.
Bairstow Tornado blew away New Zealand after his ‘Ham Burger’ Tea break
Chasing 299 in 50 overs, England got off to a good start before losing their way in the middle being on 56/3 when Jonny Bairstow made his way to the middle. With Harry Brooks scoring truckloads of runs in the county championship, Bairstow was under a bit of pressure before the third Test.
Bairstow began in a gentle way before pushing hard with few boundaries. The way he was advancing down the pitch and was swinging his willow to collect those boundaries, the fear of failure seemed to be taken off his shoulder. Few balls were flying off the edge as Bairstow raced away to an unbeaten 44-ball 40 at the Tea break.
Bairstow made his intensions clear with back-to-back boundaries to reach a gorgeous fifty in just 51 balls right after tea. In the very next over, he lofted a Trent Boult delivery over the mid-off region for a six before killing Matt Henry with a 17-run over. Those 40-odd minutes of the run fest was exceptional to see and even his captain Ben Stokes didn’t mind to have the best seat on the ground to watch Bairstow delivering.
With every big shot, the crowd was raising their voice. With a punch through the backward point for three runs, Jonny Bairstow marked his ninth Test century in just 77 balls. He smashed 16 runs in the very next over off New Zealand’s debutant Michael Bracewell. The carnage ended after a 72-ball 136 that consisted of 14 boundaries and seven sixe
The fearless Stokes in batting and captaincy
Even when England’s new captain Ben Stokes was leading the team on the field, all of his tactics indicated a very aggressive mood. When the runs were flowing in the first innings for NZ, Stokes kept the catching fielders stationed at their respective positions and didn’t fear to go for wickets rather than opting for a defensive ploy.
There were times when his bowlers were trying to send the fielders back towards the boundary to dry up runs but Stokes, who generally was giving the bowlers their own choice of field, kept them close. Late in the fourth day, Bracewell was thumping a few shots over the mid-on fielder; with England set to chase in the last innings; at that moment, Stokes could have easily pushed the man back but kept him up and was rewarded with a wicket.
In the first innings, Stokes cracked a fine 33-ball 46 with the help of six boundaries and a couple of sixes. In the second innings, England had lost four wickets before reaching 100 when Stokes joined a fierce looking Bairstow. He began with a six early in his innings before nailing a few more boundaries to reach an unbeaten 25 in just 28 balls.
When his partner Bairstow was tearing the opposition bowlers, Stokes didn’t shift his gears down either. Whenever he was getting chances, he didn’t miss out on grabbing those boundaries. And smashing a six over off Southee, who had a rare Test match to forget, Ben Stokes acknowledged the crowd with a 55-ball 50.
When Bairstow got out, Stokes didn’t give NZ a slight chance to get back in the game keeping the big shots coming in every single over. Finally, with a boundary through covers, almost in the same fashion of the boundary he hit to win the ‘Headingley Miracle’ in Ashes 2019, Stokes sealed the series by a 2-0 margin with one game in hand.
“We’re going to come ever harder (at Headingley), That’s our mindset at the moment,” Stokes sent a message to both New Zealand and the rest of the world.
The beginning of a new England era has kicked off in the best possible way but they need to carry on with more pace. With a one-off Test against India before a three-match Test series against South Africa, Stokes and McCullum will want their side to be fully confident before their historic Pakistan tour in late autumn.