An England team transformed by new leadership and a new attitude will face India in the rearranged test at Edgbaston this week convinced of success after sweeping the series against New Zealand on Monday in style.
England took only 65 minutes on the last day at Headingley to knock off the 113 remaining runs and achieve its victory target of 296 in the third test.
The morning session was washed out but England wasn’t fussed. Jonny Bairstow flayed the Kiwis with an unbeaten 71 from 44 balls, while Joe Root finished a more sedate 86 not out. Ollie Pope was clean bowled on 82 in the day’s first over but England won by seven wickets.
The English won all three tests of a gripping series with the world champion by pulling off last-day chases. They reached the target of 277 at Lord’s, 299 at Trent Bridge, and 296 here, all in stunning comfort.
The team came home from the West Indies in March humbled and embarrassed after losing that series 1-0, a fifth straight series defeat. In came new coach Brendon McCullum, the former New Zealand captain, and new skipper Ben Stokes. The new leadership encouraged the team to attack and brush off mistakes.
They have a chance from Friday in Birmingham to save the series against India which was cut short last September when India, leading 2-1, went home before the fifth and final test after a coronavirus outbreak in its tour party.
England will resume the series in a much better mood, and Stokes is looking forward to it.
“Trust me when I say this,” he said, “we’ll be coming out with exactly the same (aggressive) mindset, even though it’s a different opposition.”
Stokes didn’t need to bat on Monday, as Bairstow and Root combined for an unbeaten 111 runs in 14.3 overs.
Bairstow hit eight boundaries and three sixes. For the series, he scored 394 from 328 balls, 51 boundaries and 10 sixes.
Root, who averaged 99, was named player of the series.
Stokes praised his team’s turnaround.
“To walk away with a 3-0 series win over the best team in the world is a pretty special start,” he said. “I’ve got to show a huge amount of testament to the team over these three games. They’ve been absolutely phenomenal.
“When I took over this job, it was more than results for me. It was about changing the mindset of the lads towards test cricket, about having fun and enjoying the fact that you’re out there representing your country, and the results look after itself.
“But to say that we’ve done it so quickly is just unbelievable. I can only do so much, so I’ve got to show a huge amount of credit to Brendon, in the way that he’s come in and influenced this group.”
New Zealand was competitive throughout, notably middle-order bats Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell, but was let down by the top order and wrong selections. At Headingley, they had England 55-6 on day two but the advantage was rubbed out by Bairstow and newcomer Jamie Overton.
“It’s been an incredible series,” said captain Kane Williamson, who contracted the virus and missed the second test. “There is a new theme to their (England) approach and they won those fine margins that went a long way in perhaps deciding the outcome of the match.”
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