England’s Headingley heroics deliver where Trent Bridge couldn’t as Jonny Bairstow again stars


Jonny Bairstow and Jamie Overton

England’s thrilling final-day win at Trent Bridge, awesome though it was, had a somewhat anticlimactic air to it.

England’s stunning turnaround on day two at Headingley – another spectacular Jonny Bairstow hundred again at its heart – was anything but.

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June 25, 2022, 10:15am

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Bairstow and Ben Stokes’ blistering partnership on that final afternoon in Nottingham was lacking in only one thing: jeopardy. The Test match, up till tea on that final day, had been full of it, with England’s equation heading into the final session a nerve-jangling 160 needed from the final 38 overs.

Little more than an hour later, a series victory was secured in the most emphatic manner, with as many as 22 of those overs to spare, let alone deliveries. Was it all just a little too, whisper it, ‘easy’?

Highlights from Jonny Bairstow's incredible hundred in the second innings of the second Test between England and New Zealand

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Highlights from Jonny Bairstow’s incredible hundred in the second innings of the second Test between England and New Zealand

Highlights from Jonny Bairstow’s incredible hundred in the second innings of the second Test between England and New Zealand

That certainly can’t be levelled at England on Friday. Nothing came easy, particularly in the case of the top order, blasted out by the most brilliant of opening spells from Trent Boult. Stokes briefly countered before becoming one of two wickets to fall in Neil Wagner’s first over of the series as England crumbled to 55-6. Jeopardy.

It’s what all great drama needs. Stokes’ Headingley heroics in 2019 were such not just because it came against the Aussies and it was fun to see Nathan Lyon repeatedly carted into the stands (enjoyable as it was), but because England lost their ninth wicket with 73 runs still required and the Ashes on the line.

Ben Stokes celebrates after hitting the winning runs at Headingley in the 2019 Ashes

Ben Stokes celebrates after hitting the winning runs at Headingley in the 2019 Ashes

The Sir Ian Botham-inspired win at the same venue in the 1981 Ashes is still so revered due to England being labelled 500/1 outsiders with the bookies – five down following on, trailing by 212 – before Beefy belted the ball round the park to set up a famous victory.

Few would have heralded Edgbaston in 2005 ‘the greatest Test’ if Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz hadn’t taken Australia to within two runs of victory before the latter gloved a Steve Harmison bouncer behind.

Bairstow and Jamie Overton’s brilliance in the fading evening sun on Friday is all the more remarkable precisely because of the precarious situation they found themselves in. It’s not the first time England have been 55-6, it won’t be the last, but such a position hasn’t before prompted an unbroken 209-run partnership – in only 223 deliveries.

Ben Stokes is England's fifth wicket to fall as they slip to 55-6 on day two at Headingley

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Ben Stokes is England’s fifth wicket to fall as they slip to 55-6 on day two at Headingley

Ben Stokes is England’s fifth wicket to fall as they slip to 55-6 on day two at Headingley

“It takes a lot of courage to play in that manner but it also takes a lot of skill,” said Sky Sports’ Mark Butcher.

“Anyone can fling the bat around but you might end up with 10 or 20 against bowling of that quality.

“But to go out there and assault them as Jonny Bairstow has done for the second time in consecutive innings along with a guy on his debut is just astonishing.”

It can’t be said that this Brendon McCullum-Stokes leadership combo aren’t delivering on their promise of a new, aggressive approach in Test cricket.

It’s one thing doing it on a flat pitch, with short boundaries at Trent Bridge – as impressive as that still was – it’s quite another to stay true to that edict at 55-6 in the face of some supremely-skilled bowling. But Bairstow has certainly bought in.

“The way Brendon has been, he just said you have to impose yourself on the game,” Bairstow told Sky Sports post-play.

“It is an exciting way and it is the way I have always played my cricket and sometimes to the detriment of myself.

“And you talk about growing the game, that is how you grow the game by allowing people to connect with personalities and that is what we have been doing over the last few games.

“It is a buy-in from everyone, from the head coach, right down to the guys making their debuts, right down to the guys coming into the squad.”

A look at the highlights of Jonny Bairstow's brilliant century in the third Test against New Zealand

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A look at the highlights of Jonny Bairstow’s brilliant century in the third Test against New Zealand

A look at the highlights of Jonny Bairstow’s brilliant century in the third Test against New Zealand

Bairstow’s century was one of the highest order, his unbeaten 130 off 126 balls containing 21 boundaries. But, in form, and a hugely-valued member of England’s World Cup-winning white-ball set-up, you could argue he knows the drill.

Overton, on debut, does not, making his contribution of 89 not out off 106 deliveries just as mind-boggling, with Bairstow himself describing his innings as “exceptional”.

In the moment, Bairstow labelled his Trent Bridge ton as his best yet for England but this latest one – his 10th in Tests, and scored on his home ground – has swiftly surpassed it.

“It feels amazing, you know how much this place means to me,” Bairstow added.

An emotional Jonny Bairstow explains how much it meant to him to hit back-to-back centuries in the third Test against New Zealand

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An emotional Jonny Bairstow explains how much it meant to him to hit back-to-back centuries in the third Test against New Zealand

An emotional Jonny Bairstow explains how much it meant to him to hit back-to-back centuries in the third Test against New Zealand

“I absolutely love representing this team and I am really excited about the journey we are starting to embark on as a group. You want to be turning up in each game and you want to be contributing a lot.

“I have gone back to young Jonny when you are just watching and seeing the ball.”

‘Young Jonny’ will get the opportunity to add further to his remarkable run-scoring feats on the third morning, as will Overton who goes in search of a debut Test hundred, the pair aiming to bat England into a winning position in this Test. Because, ultimately, that’s what matters most.

We may have had the jeopardy to set up Friday’s heroics, but now – like with Headingley 1981 and 2019, Edgbaston 2005 and Trent Bridge before it – the right result needs to follow.

England vs New Zealand Test three continues on Saturday at 10.15am on Sky Sports Cricket, with play under way at 11am.



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