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Jonny Bairstow scores England’s second-fastest Test century in stunning victory
The batter joined captain Ben Stokes to power their side to a five-wicket win over New Zealand and seal a series triumph.
Jonny Bairstow unleashed an astonishing century to power England to a famous series win over New Zealand, making child’s play of a record chase alongside triumphant captain Ben Stokes.
Bairstow produced the innings of his life, obliterating the Kiwi attack to finish with 136 in 92 balls as he and Stokes bullied their way to a five-wicket win at Trent Bridge and an unassailable 2-0 lead.
The pair dazzled in a game-changing fifth-wicket stand of 179, turning a nail-biting finale into a cakewalk as England smashed the previous successful pursuit at this ground to hunt down 299.
Bairstow came within a whisker of scoring the fastest ever century by an Englishman but left Gilbert Jessop’s 120-year-old record of 76 balls intact. It took him just one delivery more to reach three figures, but the reward of seizing a pressure situation and standing tall for his team with everything on the line will go a long way to making up for that.
Stokes, meanwhile, overcame a painful knee to finish with a wonderful 75 not out, flaying the winning boundary to kick off his reign in unforgettable fashion following last week’s win at Lord’s.
Capping a game that finished with the highest boundary count in Test history, Bairstow hit seven sixes and 14 fours, with Stokes weighing in with four and 10.
The whole affair played out in front of a capacity crowd of just under 18,000, whose day of epic entertainment came absolutely free after Nottinghamshire threw the doors open.
After bowling New Zealand out for 284 in the morning England had just 72 overs to get the runs, at a steep required rate of 4.15. If ever there was an examination of their commitment to the ultra-aggressive ethos preached by Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum since their appointments last month, this was it.
With Bairstow in brutal form and Stokes a past master of outrageous chases, they passed with flying colours and used just 50 of the available overs. The task had seemed huge when they came together at 93 for four, with Alex Lees (44) left to do the early running after Zak Crawley fell for a duck and first-innings centurions Joe Root and Ollie Pope both fell cheaply. And things were still agonisingly poised as they headed into the final session with 160 still needed in 38 overs.
But the whole situation flipped as Bairstow went on a barrage that will live in legend, hammering 93 runs off his next 44 deliveries.
It started when New Zealand hatched an ill-fated plan to bounce him, dropping all their leg-side catchers onto the ropes and daring him to take the bait.
The Yorkshireman, already on 43 not out, snapped it up without a second thought as he swatted Matt Henry for successive fours to bring up his half-century in 51 balls. It was confident, quality cricket and it was only the very start.
Trent Boult, hitherto flawless in this match, was next up as Bairstow slammed his front foot down the ground and swung hard through the line for six down the ground. Stokes, whose second scoring shot was a towering six, chipped in a couple more fours to keep the accelerator pressed firmly to the floor, but it was Bairstow who had the magic at his fingertips.
There were two more mighty sixes from Henry’s next visit, pulled emphatically into the crowd as the seamer continued feeding Bairstow the ammunition he craved. Even when he failed to make contact the scoreboard kept rolling, with a blow off the helmet disappearing for four leg-byes. England had scored a barely believable 43 off three overs and had no intention of changing gears.
The hundred partnership was next, barely acknowledged amid the carnage, as Bairstow resumed his assault on a shellshocked Boult. He launched the left-armer for another pair of maximums abandoning all pretence of playing each ball on its merits. When he did hang one up outside off stump, Bairstow settled for slashing him for a flat four past point.
A party atmosphere had broken out around the ground, replacing the hum of nervous tension, and Bairstow kept stoking the fires. Two more muscular punches off Henry took him within sniffing distance of a sensational ton and the only real surprise was that he left Jessop’s 120-year-old record standing.
Tim Southee somehow snuck through two dot balls with Bairstow on 99, spoiling his hopes of breaking and equalling the mark, but he took three off the next to complete a special achievement of his own.
Things already seemed to be heading to an inevitable conclusion but New Zealand had to play their part, tossing the ball up as the England duo repeatedly banished them to the stands.
Spinner Michael Bracewell served up eight overs for sixty, treated with utter hostility by Stokes in particular, and even when a thin edge off Boult ended Bairstow’s charge there was no real drama.
Stokes had a couple of dicey moments but with Ben Foakes along for the ride he finished things in a blaze of glory, clubbing Boult for a six and two fours before holding his bat aloft to take in the acclaim.
Somehow, England had romped to victory having conceded a first-innings score of 553 – the kind of bloody-minded brilliance the Stokes-McCullum had promised from the outset.