Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root lead England to whitewash victory over New Zealand
Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root completed England’s third blistering chase in a row to kick off their riotous new era under Brendon McCullum with a series whitewash over New Zealand at Headingley.
Root barely broke a sweat as he finished with 86 not out and fellow Yorkshireman Jonny Bairstow continued the form of his life as he crashed 77no to seal a seven-wicket win and a 3-0 scoreline.
In keeping with their astonishing efforts over the past month, England needed just 15.2 overs and a shade over an hour to score the 113 runs required for victory, with a pair of local boys fittingly at the fore.
Bairstow, following up two unforgettable attacking centuries, blazed the second fastest Test 50 in English history just a week after claiming the second fastest hundred. He brought up his half-century in 30 balls, two more than Sir Ian Botham’s 1981 record, and finished the game with the last of three huge sixes.
Ben Stokes and McCullum took over as captain and head coach at the start of the summer hoping to revitalise the fortunes of a side that had won just one of their last 17 Tests, and have started their reigns with a hat-trick of remarkable victories at Lord’s, Trent Bridge and now in Leeds.
The Black Caps, reigning Test world champions have set stiff targets on each occasion – 277, 299 and 296 – only to find their hosts in irresistible form at every turn. Here they completed the chase at a manic average run-rate of 5.54.
England had finished day four in control, making light of a wearing pitch as a century stand between Ollie Pope and Root took them to 183 for two at a rampant rate of scoring.
That left just more than a hundred still to get, a challenging fifth day ask in ordinary times but a seemingly trifling figure given to a team who are making a mockery of conventional cricketing wisdom in these changing times.
The entire morning session was washed out by persistent rain in Leeds, but the fans who took advantage of Yorkshire’s offer of free tickets were rewarded when play got under way at 1.30pm.
Pope, who had been in wonderful touch on Sunday evening, saw his hopes of a second century in the series halted in emphatic fashion, with Tim Southee nipping one back through the gate to take out off stump.
Losing a set batter for 82 to the fifth ball of the day could – perhaps should – have sowed some doubt in the home dressing room but England brushed off Pope’s departure as a minor inconvenience.
Trent Boult took the next over and was promptly despatched for 17, Root threading a pair of boundaries through the off side before giving the strike to Bairstow who helped himself to two more.
In the blink of an eye, England’s target was into double figures for the first time. Root and Bairstow have been the star attractions of the so-called ‘Bazball’ experiment and they were soon showboating for their home crowd.
Bairstow punched Boult square to the ropes in his next over and then went after Southee, who was launched back over his head for a brutal six. New Zealand changed the pace but not the outcome when Michael Bracewell came on, Bairstow sweeping his first ball for four and depositing another maximum over long-on.
Bairstow leathered Southee flat down the ground to reach his half-century, Root having settled into a back-seat role. Bracewell thought he had Bairstow caught off the glove on 55, but was denied a scrap of solace when replays showed the ball ballooning of his forearm.
Root’s chances of sneaking to a century disappeared due to his partner’s furious scoring, with another four going begging when his attempted scoop shot resulted in four byes down the leg-side.
With 10 runs needed to win and the forlorn Bracewell starting a new over, Bairstow decided to draw a line under proceedings. He leant back and slashed the first ball for four and then slogged a huge six over wide long-on to complete another sensational display for him and England’s revitalised red-ball unit.
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