Joe Root reverse-sweeping Neil Wagner for a six towards the third point area was not a miscalculated and a risky shot. Instead, it represents the new mentality of the English batters, which encourages out-of-the-box thinking.
Exactly six months ago, England’s red-ball team kept falling into a pathetic slump, whereas New Zealand were just afresh from their ICC World Test Championship Title.
Now, fast forward to six months later, and the roles have reversed in the most extraordinary manner. The Blackcaps were handed an embarrassing 3-0 clean sweep by England, who have completely turned into a different side under the leadership of Ben Stokes.
England’s talisman Ben Stokes knows a thing or two about playing counter-attacking cricket. In fact, this is the philosophy which had reaped dividends for the Three Lions in the white-ball format. So, when Stokes was handed over the red-ball captaincy, there was optimism around England’s batting, perhaps for the first time in months.
However harsh as it may sound but barring Joe Root, no English batter deserved a spot in the playing 11, going by how they have fared in the past year. The emphatic series victory against New Zealand heralds a new era in England’s batting philosophy. As we have seen time and time again in the recently concluded series, English batters have completely rattled the opposition bowlers, irrespective of the situation of the game.
England became the first side in Test cricket history to successfully chase down scores of over 250 three times in the same series. Perhaps, the manner in which they hunted down the chase is what has amazed the fans. The hosts did not just barely make it past the finishing line but literally made a mockery of a world-class Kiwi bowling unit.
277, 299, 296 - these totals seemed to be a walk in the park for the hosts. The main architects of this dominating batting performance were Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow. The latter seemed to be in a T20 zone, finding boundaries or clear fences for fun.
Bairstow scored 136 runs off just 92 balls in the final innings of the penultimate Test match. And, we are talking against an opposition which has Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Matt Henry in their bowling lineup.
Reeling at 55 runs for the loss of six wickets in the final Test, Bairstow and Jamie Overton put on a 241-run stand for the seventh wicket. Needless to say, Bairstow batted at a strike rate of over 100 once again. It was only fitting that Root and Bairstow were present at the crease when the hosts completed a memorable clean sweep over the reigning World Test Champions.
The former England captain ended as the top run-getter for England, scoring 396 runs at an average of 99. Meanwhile, Bairstow just finished behind his teammate, scoring 394 runs at an average of just under 80.
Taking the spotlight away from the two in-form players, the likes of Stokes and Ollie Pope also stepped-up with the bat on quite a few occasions. The latter toyed with the Kiwi bowlers, with Root being his partner in crime in the final innings in Leeds. Ben Stokes rose to the occasion, playing second fiddle to Bairstow during the batting carnage in Nottingham.
Perhaps, with the depth of talent and quality in the English batting order, this was a long time in the coming. Or maybe it was just a one-off batting display. The fifth and final Test against India, starting later this week, should just about answer this question.