'The sky is the limit' for England, says Trent Bridge hero Bairstow

By Sports Desk June 14, 2022

The sky is the limit for England's Test team under the new leadership of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum, says Jonny Bairstow.

England claimed an emphatic five-wicket victory over New Zealand at Trent Bridge on Tuesday, thanks in large part to Bairstow's supreme performance.

Bairstow struck 136 off just 92 deliveries as he turned in one of the all-time great batting displays in red-ball cricket for England.

Indeed, his 77-ball century fell agonisingly short of matching Gilbert Jessop's 76-ball hundred at The Oval in 1902, which still stands as England's fastest Test ton.

The Yorkshireman's 136 was the highest fourth-innings score of any England batter coming in at five or lower, as he combined with captain Stokes to propel the hosts to victory with a 179-run fifth-wicket partnership.

While Bairstow's stand was eventually ended by Trent Boult, who took 3-94 for a New Zealand bowling attack devoid of the injured Kyle Jamieson, Stokes (75 not out) was on hand to hammer a four through the covers and wrap up the highest successful Test chase at Trent Bridge.

England won just one of their previous 17 Tests before Stokes replaced Joe Root – who starred in the first innings in Nottingham – as captain and former New Zealand skipper McCullum was appointed as coach. They now hold an unassailable 2-0 series lead heading to Leeds for next week's final match.

With 1,675 runs scored over the second Test – the most ever seen at Trent Bridge – Bairstow explained England approached day five as a one-day game, and he believes the team have the perfect balance to return to the top in the longest format.

"It was just great fun to be out there. It's one of those things, when you get in that kind of mood you've just got to go with it. It was do or die," he told Sky Sports.

"If you strip everything back and there's just you and the bowler there... that's the bit where sometimes cricket's so much more complicated, and it's complicated by us as players.

"When you strip it all back, you're just watching the ball – that is the zone you have to get into. Sometimes it can be tricky.

"When there's been so many runs scored in the game, I don't think you look at it as a record run chase, you look at it as an opportunity to go and chase down a total. We saw it as a one-day game – that's how we looked at it.

"I think the positive approach, the brand of cricket we're looking to play, the players we have in that dressing room are able to play that brand of cricket. I tell you what, days like this are very exciting. If this is happening now, let's see what happens in the next few weeks and next few months because it's going to be a journey."

Asked where his ninth Test century ranked among his other tons for England in the five-day game, Bairstow – who revealed his evening session onslaught was fuelled by a "cheese and ham toastie and a cup of coffee" – replied: "It's number one. I think it's tricky not to be number one, isn't it?

"There's been a lot of chatter around England's Test cricket, some of which has been a bit harsh. We've battled through different things. I'm hugely proud of the way the guys have gone about it in those few years, it's enabled us to get close as a group.

"If we're able to go forward as we have done, keep that momentum, keep it going, the sky is the limit."

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