Who knew Test cricket could be so much fun? On a gloriously sunny day at Trent Bridge, England produced a heroic display of rip-roaring batting to defeat New Zealand in the second Test of the series, despite at one point looking dead and buried in the cricket betting odds.
England needed 299 runs on the final day to get the win, and they ran up that number in a flash. A scoring frenzy delivered the goods, with Jonny Bairstow the hero of the hour. The 32-year-old fired in a magnificent 139 runs, including a rapid blitz of 93 runs in 43 balls between tea and when he was bowled out by Trent Boult. He left the pitch to a standing ovation from the buoyant crowd.
The hard work was done by that mammoth effort after tea, and Ben Foakes and captain Ben Stokes were able to see out the victory in comfort with plenty left to spare. Cue the celebrations, as the frenzied crowd heralded the arrival of this new, lean, spirited England Test side, who will be well fancied in the tips for cricket from now on.
It wasn’t just the fact that England clawed it back, it was the manner of the explosive attacking performance. They hit the most boundaries ever recorded in a Test, which shows just how positively the batters were approaching every ball. Yes, the pitch conditions were conducive to heavy scoring, but you still have to go out and do it. Bairstow, Stokes and their teammates delivered the goods when it mattered most.
With a tough chase on the cards in their second innings, you could have forgiven England for tip-tapping their way to a draw, which would have ensured that they could not lose the three-Test series against the Kiwis. But this is a new era, and Stokes was keen to stress that the strategy was always going to be do or die.
“I’ll say it simply. We were either winning this game or losing it,” Stokes said. “The message was run into the fear of where the game was, rather than stand still or back away from it.”
“The enjoyment of every minute out on the field was incredible,” he added. “I can’t quite get my head around how we’ve chased 299 with 22 overs left on day five of a Test.”
This match was the perfect tonic for cricket fans who had grown disillusioned with this England team, after the side’s toils in recent Test series. This was no-holds-barred, aggressive cricket, and above all, it was fun — something that has been sorely lacking in recent years.
With the rise of events like The Hundred and the T20 Blast, and the increasing popularity of the Cricket World Cup, it has felt in recent years as though Test cricket is at risk of being left behind. But this England display will have reinvigorated anyone who may have felt themselves drifting away from the sport in its purest form.
England’s heroics at Trent Bridge have guaranteed the series win, but they’ll want to go out and give a similar display in the third Test at Headingley, and continue to build the wave of support that has formed around the team over the last couple of weeks. Expect more fireworks from this re-energised England side.