ZB

Brilliant England chase down total to win series

Author
Andrew Alderson,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 Jun 2022, 8:21am
England's captain Ben Stokes and batting partner Ben Foakes celebrate their win on the fifth day. Photo / AP
England's captain Ben Stokes and batting partner Ben Foakes celebrate their win on the fifth day. Photo / AP

Brilliant England chase down total to win series

Author
Andrew Alderson,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 Jun 2022, 8:21am

By Andrew Alderson at Trent Bridge

Imagine listening to the theme tune to Jaws for four hours.

Dun-dun…

That's what watching the denouement to the second test between New Zealand and England at Trent Bridge was like.

Dun-dun…

The climax is somewhere on the horizon, but you don't know where.

Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun…

Suddenly the cricketing sharks Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes, fueled by the dogmatic will and indelible self-belief of new coach Brendon McCullum, struck.

Chomp.

Armed with cool detachment on a true pitch, the pair produced a 179-run, 121-ball fifth-wicket partnership to destroy New Zealand's will.

They chased 299 to win by five wickets with 22 overs to spare. Only three times has a test team scored more than 553 in the first innings and lost.

England took an unassailable 2-0 victory in the three-match series with a dead rubber at Headingley to play.

What has been described as "Bazball" in honour of the gaffer is here, the disciples are building and the cynics are waning.

988 runs is the most scored via boundaries in a test, and that is the highest run chase in the fourth innings to win at the venue.

New Zealand's bowling arsenal looked depleted. Kyle Jamieson was out with his lower back twinge, Tim Southee was struggling for his usual attacking energy, Trent Boult and Matt Henry were subject to Bairstow and Stokes at their marmalising best after tea, part-time off-spinner Michael Bracewell was getting asked to perform a miracle on debut, Neil Wagner was a reserve fielder and Ajaz Patel sat in the stands.

Boult's caught-and-bowled of back-to-back century-maker Joe Root for three provided false hope.

A sombre crowd sat and soaked up the disappointment as Bairstow strode to the crease.

Within a few deliveries they were rising ball-by-ball in raptures as his all-out assault began on the way to a 77-ball hundred, the second-fastest in England.

A wave of patriotic fervour took hold. Fans chanted and feted the pair from the stands in an echo reminiscent of the 2019 World Cup final at Lord's.

The match was still in the balance at 139 for four at tea, but 68 runs in five overs vanquished New Zealand hopes immediately afterwards.

The visitors employed a limited overs-type field, the slip cordon evaporated and they clung to forlorn hope as their bowlers were blasted in the Trent Bridge furnace.

Bairstow provided out-and-out box office glory, teeing off as if a moat surrounded the in-field and defensive shots would result in an electric shock. His timing defied belief as he went into a meditative flurry on his way to 136 off 92 balls before Boult had him caught behind at 272 for five.

Stokes brought an unflinching, unshakeable, unbridled self-belief that he knows how to dictate a game and woe betide any obstacles in his way. He inspired respect, fear or both in the opposition – notably when New Zealand instigated an lbw review at 132 for four off Henry which pitched outside leg and was ballooning over the stumps. He finished on 75 not out.

Earlier, the Black Caps inched towards the magical 300-run lead, a point up to which hosts wicketkeeper Ben Foakes said they would be prepared to chase at last night's press conference.

The Black Caps were eventually dismissed for 284, leaving England to ponder the pursuit of 299 off a minimum of 72 overs – they needed 50.

At lunch, the hosts were 36 for one from nine overs with Alex Lees tonking six boundaries. Four of them came off Tim Southee – including three from the first over. Lees finished with 44 but had set the blueprint.

Drama ensued throughout.

Henry edged Jack Leach to the right of Root's boots at first slip from the second ball of the morning. The chance went begging.

The number nine then copped a barrage of short-pitch bowling that made you wonder if Michael Holding was in the house. You hoped Henry had been doing enough Pilates to cope with flinging his head back, chest out and legs up.

Daryl Mitchell struggled to get the strike at times as England maintained the pressure. Fortunately Henry cut loose with a couple of boundaries until he was bounced out by Stuart Broad.

Broad, the Nottinghamshire local, was in his pantomime pomp as he engaged with a crowd taking advantage of free final day entry. He knows his audience and reveled in the theatre of the occasion.

Broad struck again as Jamieson departed one.

Enter Trent Boult. He needed one run to take over from Muttiah Muralitharan as test cricket's highest scoring number 11. The process took six balls, but eventually he slugged Stokes for two to long-on and advancing to 625 runs batting last.

Soon Boult was swatting and slashing like he was entering some previously undiscovered Amazonian jungle.

Stokes was clattered for 14 in his following over. Boult made full use of the crease, particularly on the legside, hammering the ball like a tennis player at the top of the bounce.

Mitchell struggled to get in on the act at times, but still advanced to 62 not out. Henry and Boult deserve credit that they contributed 27 runs to Mitchell's 30 across the 15.4 overs faced.

Test number 2465 will resonate in witnesses' memories for the drama that built to such a crescendo. The ICC governing body should play this on loop when they consider sacrificing the frequency of such contests at the white-ball altar.