Jonny Bairstow indicated England were ready to dispense with cricket orthodoxy after his latest stunning century against New Zealand sparked a storybook rally in the third Test on Friday.
England’s new leadership duo of captain Ben Stokes and red-ball coach Brendon McCullum, a former New Zealand captain, have urged their previously struggling side to play with freedom.
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Their approach was vindicated as England, with just one win in 17 previous outings at this level, went 2-0 up in a three-match series against the World Test champions.
But England came crashing back down to earth in spectacular style as they slumped to 55-6 following New Zealand’s first-innings 329 at Headingley.
Even so Bairstow, fresh from a series-clinching century in Nottingham last week, followed up with a stunning 130 not out on his Yorkshire home ground.
Together with Test debutant Jamie Overton, he shared a remarkable unbroken stand of 209 as England ended the second day on 264-6, just 65 runs behind.
Overton was 89 not out at stumps — a superb effort from a fast bowler in his first Test innings.
McCullum is adamant ‘Baz ball’, as his approach has been dubbed, is not just a matter of going hell for leather.
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But it does appear to be about expanding the realms of possibility, with Bairstow telling reporters: “We (England) are still in the infancy of it, but what I will say is we are looking to take the game forward.
“You can go into your shell and bat the way people have done for years and years and years — try to survive against bowlers like Trent Boult and Tim Southee when they’re bowling so well — but you need to transfer the momentum. You need to take them off their lengths.”
Bairstow now hopes to have the best seat in the house on Saturday as Overton looks to complete what would be an astounding debut hundred.
“Jamie played unbelievably. I guess it helps being 6ft 5in but blooming heck, that was some seriously special striking; unbelievable hitting,” he said. “Hopefully in the morning we will be able to experience him getting his maiden Test hundred, which would be absolutely lovely.”
Bairstow and Overton’s partnership meant that, not for the first time this series, a hundred from New Zealand’s Daryl Mitchell was overshadowed.
Mitchell’s 109 on Friday followed the middle-order batter’s 108 at Lord’s and 190 at Trent Bridge.
The 31-year-old only played at Lord’s after injury and illness ruled out Henry Nicholls, but he has seized his chance to such an extent that Mitchell is now the only overseas batter apart from Australia hero and cricket great Don Bradman in 1930 to compile hundreds in each of the first three Tests of a series in England.
But the “competitor at heart” added he would like to make a hundred in a winning cause for a change this tour.
“It’d be nice,” he said. “That’s why you play the game, to win Test matches for your country.”
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