Captain Ben Stokes said England’s remarkable victory over New Zealand is his greatest win as an England player, even better than his heroics at Headingley and in the World Cup final.
England chased 299 with 22 overs to spare on the final day to win the second Test at Trent Bridge.
“The enjoyment of every minute out on the field was incredible,” said Stokes.
“I can’t quite get my head around how we’ve chased 299 with 22 overs left on day five of a Test.”
Stokes, 31, played career-defining innings twice in the summer of 2019, first to defeat New Zealand in the World Cup final at Lord’s, then to down Australia in the third Ashes Test in Leeds.
Now, in his second Test since being appointed full-time captain, England pulled off a stunning run-chase in front of a capacity 17,000-crowd that took advantage of the final day attendance being free of charge. England were set 299 from 72 overs and strolled the pursuit in 50. Not only was the chase England’s fifth-highest of all-time, but by scoring at almost six runs per over it was the fastest they have ever chased a target of more than 100.
They were led by Jonny Bairstow, whose 136 saw him reach three figures in 77 balls – England’s second-fastest Test hundred, while Stokes ended 75 not out.
“I was out there for a while with him and he had the Jonny eyes,” Stokes told Test Match Special. “You probably have seen it on TV but when he’s got those eyes you’re not stopping him. Just let him go on and do what he needs to do.”
In one astonishing spell of hitting after tea, Bairstow took 59 runs from 29 balls, just missing out on a 120-year record for England’s fastest ton.
“It was great fun,” he said. “I’m hugely proud of the way I went about it.
“It was a choice to go up, to hit the ball into the stands, to keep swinging hard. Stokesy said ‘don’t even think about keeping the ball down’. I was just trying to do what the captain said.”
The victory gives England a series success over the world champions and means they are two wins from two under new captain Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum, who have been urging the team to play with aggression, positivity and freedom.
“This couldn’t have been a better start in terms of the new way we want to go forward,” said Stokes.
“We know we’re still working towards a lot of things. We’re never going to be happy with where we are.