Good start for Stokes, now comes hard part

Ben Stokes has enjoyed the perfect start to his captaincy of England's cricket Test team with three entertaining wins over New Zealand.

Good start for Stokes, now comes hard part

Good start for Stokes, now comes hard part

published : 2 Jul 2022 at 04:00

newspaper section: Sports

writer: Nobby Piles

Ben Stokes has enjoyed the perfect start to his captaincy of England's cricket Test team with three entertaining wins over New Zealand.

Ironically, it is a New Zealander who has played a key role in England's success with new coach Brendon McCullum deserving praise for the refreshingly positive approach by the hosts.

The manner in which they achieved these victories was in stark contrast to the dismal performances against Australia in the Ashes and the West Indies.

Before the New Zealand matches, England had won only one of their previous 17 Tests and their confidence had been shattered.

They will need all this new-found belief in the ongoing one-off Test against India which began at Edgbaston yesterday.

Ranked second in the world, India are expected to be a much tougher challenge than New Zealand who, with a few exceptions, did not play like a team that are world Test champions.

The sweep over the Kiwis was not as easy as may first appear and there were times in all three matches when New Zealand looked like possible winners.

In the third Test, they had England in deep trouble at 55-6 in the first innings but somehow the hosts went on to win by seven wickets.

That England were able to clinch all three matches came down to inspired batting performances primarily from Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow while spinner Jack Leach was the unlikely man of the match in the final Test after a 10-wicket haul.

Spurred on by McCullum's attacking philosophy, dubbed "Baz ball," the England team are showing a belief they can win no matter the situation.

This new attitude was highlighted by Bairstow's sensational innings on the last day of the second Test when the Yorkshireman treated spectators to one of the most astonishing onslaughts ever seen in Test cricket.

In a marvellous display of hitting, Bairstow was eventually out for 136 after 92 balls.

His century came in just 77 balls. He hit 14 fours and seven sixes and in a magical period after tea struck 93 from 44 balls. They were all clean hits, no wild slogging.

Bairstow's dominance was such that although Stokes scored 75 not out in 70 balls, he definitely played second fiddle.

Stokes said he could "see in Jonny's eyes" he was a man with a mission.

It prompted the Daily Mail to declare "Brutal Bairstow Blitzes Kiwis."

The Yorkshireman was very honest about his performance saying: "I always try to be positive.

"Sometimes it has led to my downfall but that's all part of the game… you get in the mood and just go for it."

Bairstow was in the mood again in the third Test with a masterly 162, hauling England out pf trouble ably supported by bowler Jamie Overton scoring a magnificent 97 on his debut.

It was only fitting that Bairstow hit the winning runs in the second innings with a massive six as he finished on 71 not out while Root had another impressive knock of 86 not out.

Root was an inspiration throughout the series and enjoyed centuries in the first two Tests with scores of 115 and 176 respectively.

The former England skipper showed his class in another way at the end of the match when he grabbed one of the stumps and handed it to New Zealand batsman Daryl Mitchell who had played so splendidly throughout the series scoring centuries in all three Tests.

In another important development for English cricket, the hugely successful one-day and Twenty20 skipper Eoin Morgan announced his retirement from the international game.

During the Irishman's captaincy, England won the 2019 World Cup, one of the greatest days in the country's cricketing history.

Under his leadership, England also went top of the T20 standings.

He won widespread praise for his tactical skills, transforming an England squad by introducing a positive, attacking mindset, very similar to the current Stokes/McCullum approach.

Morgan had been struggling with the bat lately and decided it was time to step down.

On hearing Morgan's announcement, McCullum called him "A tremendous leader and a fine human being."

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