Brutal Bairstow smashes England to series win over NZealand

NOTTINGHAM, England (AP) — Energized by a ham-and-cheese toastie and a cup of coffee at the tea interval, England batter Jonny Bairstow walked back out to the middle with Ben Stokes and discussed with his captain the approach required to pull off a series-clinching win over New Zealand.

Another 160 runs were needed by England in the final session of a classic test match at Trent Bridge that was hanging in the balance.

“Ben just said, ‘Don’t even think about hitting one down, hit it into the stand,’” Bairstow said.

And that’s what he did. Again and again and again.

With a brutal, at-times-outrageous display of ball-striking, Bairstow smashed his country’s second-fastest test century — in just 77 balls — to lead England to a record run chase at Trent Bridge and a five-wicket victory in the second test.

The new era of English cricket has been launched with a series victory over the world test champions, with a match to spare, too.

“Today was set up absolutely perfectly for the way we want to go about things going forward,” Stokes said. “It’s pretty simple — run into the danger and rather than back away, just stand still. That’s definitely what we did today.”

Set 299 to win in a little over two sessions on Day 5, England reached its target in just 50 overs. Bairstow fell for 136 off 92 balls just before the victory was sealed, leaving Stokes (75 not out) to get England over the line, but there was no doubt who was the star of the show.

“It was just one of the best things I’ve ever seen,” Stokes said.

Thrown together with England in a tough spot at 93-4 in the reply, Bairstow and Stokes could have played for the draw to preserve the team’s 1-0 lead in the three-match series. Instead, they went on the attack — following the attacking blueprint desired by new coach Brendon McCullum, a Kiwi — and it blew the New Zealanders away.

In the first nine overs after tea, Bairstow and Stokes hit 102 runs in a savage assault that saw the ball disappear to all corners of the sold-out ground.

Bairstow dominated the strike, completing his ninth test century in 77 deliveries — one ball more than Gilbert Jessop’s record for England set in 1902 — and ultimately striking 14 fours and seven sixes. Five of those sixes came, incredibly, in a three-over burst immediately after tea.

Stokes was mostly an onlooker at the other end as he struggled with pain in his right knee that meant it was a struggle to run between the wicket. He still managed some huge hits of his own, charging down the pitch to smash a ball from pacer Matt Henry over the ropes in one of his four sixes.

Bairstow eventually departed to a standing ovation after nicking Trent Boult behind and, by then, there was no coming back for New Zealand. Ben Foakes, with an unbeaten 12, helped Stokes get England to the victory target.

Bairstow, an opener in white-ball cricket for England, said the team treated the chase like a one-day game.

“If you go into it with a negative mentality, then all of a sudden you might be a bit apprehensive,” he said. “The positive approach, the brand of cricket we are looking to play, the players in that dressing room are able to play it.

“Today was very exciting and if this is happening now, let’s see what happens in the next few weeks and the next few months. Wow, it’s going to be a journey.”

England had won one of its last 17 tests before the launch of a new era under Stokes and McCullum for this international summer. The team has won its first two tests under new leadership, with this Trent Bridge triumph backing up England’s five-wicket victory at Lord’s in the first match of the series against the reigning world test champions.

The previous highest successful chase in Nottingham came in 2004 when England’s 284-6 defeated New Zealand. There had been only two others above 200 aside from that.

New Zealand somehow lost a test match having scored 553 in its first innings after being put into bat.

The tourists even looked marginal favorites after adding 60 runs to its overnight score of 224-7, eventually getting dismissed for 284 about 45 minutes before lunch.

But they proved to be massively handicapped by the absence of fast bowler Kyle Jamieson, who was unable to bowl — even though he came out and batted — because of a back injury.

Still, the way England responded was nothing short of sensational.

“At tea it was still in the balance, but the way Jonny and England played was outstanding and all credit to them,” New Zealand stand-in captain Tom Latham said.

“It will take a while to sink in.”

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