Former captain Nasser Hussain called England’s five-wicket win over New Zealand at Trent Bridge one of the nation’s greatest ever victories after Jonny Bairstow starred in a thrilling fifth-day run chase.
Bairstow made 136 off 92 balls as England chased down 299, with the real fireworks coming after tea when he and captain Ben Stokes blasted 49 off just four overs.
It came after New Zealand scored 553 in the first innings and then added 284 in the second to set an imposing target, but England took it on and got their rewards.
After all the struggles of the previous regime, with only one win in 17 Tests, this new-look England have taken a 2-0 lead in this series and fuelled a huge surge of optimism looking forward.
“It has to be one of England’s greatest wins, it really has,” Hussain said on Sky Sports.
“From where they were, what they gave up in the first innings and where they’ve been in the last couple of years that is some turnaround.
“Ben Stokes, having talked the talk off the pitch has definitely walked the walk in the middle.”
Michael Atherton said the victory spoke to a change of mentality under Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum.
“What a difference a year makes,” he said. “Cast your mind back to a timid cautious England not going for a chase that was a little over three (runs) an over and here, that statement of intent of going for this win.
“It’s glass half-full or glass half-empty and you just have to go for it. I take my hat off to the new England management for having a go and getting there easily in the end, it was a cakewalk with Jonny Bairstow playing the innings of his life.”
Mark Butcher joked that Bairstow had ruined what could have been a tense finish given the speed with which he took the contest away from New Zealand after tea.
“We’ve ended up with one of the great days of cricket,” he said.
“In the end Jonny rather spoiled the game. We had all this drama and tension building up and in the end they’ve won it with 20 overs to spare, they’ve absolutely smoked it all around the park.”
Bairstow used his post-match interview to say it was important not to dismiss the work that had been done when Chris Silverwood was the coach and Joe Root the captain during the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, though Atherton said it was clear what difference the change in management had made.
It has to be one of England's greatest wins, it really hasNasser Hussain
“This is an incredible lesson in the value of leadership,” the ex-England captain said.
“This is the same team that went to the Caribbean with the exception of (James) Anderson and (Stuart) Broad. Many of the same players were in Australia.
“I’m not for one minute saying all of England’s problems are solved but go back to December and all the angst and navel-gazing about English cricket, structures needing to be ripped up.
“Some of us who watched the Ashes said some of the problems are just at the top. With a change of leadership, the optimism, energy, vibrancy can change things pretty quickly.
“It’s been a quicker turnaround than many of us thought but nevertheless that’s the value of leadership.”