England whitewashed the World Test Champions, New Zealand, by 3-0 and capped off one of the most enthralling Test series in recent times. In the process, England also became the first team ever to successfully chase down 250+ scores three times in a series. The Test series was dominated by batters but there was also some top-quality bowling on display. Trent Boult, at times, made it impossible to play the swinging new ball. Matthew Potts had an impressive debut series despite not picking enough wickets to show for it. We look at some of the hits and misses from the series.
Time for Bazball
Barring two debutants, the players part of this England Test team have been with the group for some time. Yet, the results in this series indicate a 180° shift in the approach from the English batters. So what changed?
England had a new leadership group before the start of the series. Brendon McCullum was appointed the Head Test Coach for Men’s team while Ben Stokes was appointed as their Test captain. In ‘Baz’ McCullum and Stokes, England have two fearless individuals who are known for their attacking brand of cricket. But their biggest concern would’ve been asking their teammates to adopt the same brand.
Throughout the series, England produced one of the most scintillating batting displays in Test history. Their run rate of 4.54 was the highest for any team with a minimum of five innings in a series. It was a result of complete freedom from the leadership group to their players, providing them with an environment that enabled the players to let go of the fear of failure and be the best version of themselves for the team’s cause. These are still early days for the Stokes-McCullum duo, but the signs are very encouraging. After revolutionising the 50-over format, England might be onto doing the same with Test cricket.
Daryl Mitchell was, by far, the best batter in the Test series and one of the rare positives for New Zealand. After a failure in the first innings at Lord’s, where he was bowled by debutant Matthew Potts for 13, Mithcell notched up five consecutive half-centuries for visitors, including three centuries.
More than the number of runs, it was the situation when they came that made Mitchell stand out even more. In the second innings at Lord’s, New Zealand were effectively three down for 26 when Mitchell came on to bat. He then combined with Tom Blundell for a 195-run partnership to score his career’s second Test hundred (108).
His second hundred of the series was also his highest Test score (190) which came in the first innings of the second Test. He was the last man out and helped New Zealand post 553. His third and final hundred again came when his team was in trouble at 62-4 in the first innings of the final Test. What makes Mitchell’s series more special is he wasn’t even the first-choice member in the playing XI. He played the first Test as a replacement for an injured Henry Nicholls.
Jonny Bairstow had an incredible start to the year after his magnificent performance in West Indies. But no one would have dreamt of the impact that he was going to make in the English summer. This Test series might well go down as the ‘Bairstow Series‘ as he produced back-to-back breathtaking performances.
After just 17 runs off 24 balls in the first Test at Lord’s, Bairstow produced some of the finest hundreds in the history of English cricket. Chasing 299 to win the second Test, Bairstow produced the second-fastest 100 for England off 77 balls. England were reeling at 55-6 in the first innings of the third Test when Bairstow got together with debutant Jamie Overton to score the second-fastest 150 for England off 144 balls. In the final innings of the series, Bairstow scored the second-fastest 50 for England, coming off just 30 balls.
Bairstow scored 394 runs for England in the series, but they came at a strike rate of 120.12, which is the second-highest in a Test series with at least 300 runs. For someone whose place was always questioned in the Test team, Bairstow has silenced his critics with a deafening performance.
Zak Crawley’s continued failures
Zak Crawley, England’s Test opener, has 1174 runs after 24 Tests. What is shocking is that 22.74% of his career runs came in just one inning of 267 against Pakistan. Since his career-best innings, Crawley averages 18.53 in 16 Tests, with three 50+ scores and four Ducks.
Out of his 44 innings at the Test level, 22 have ended in single digits, which is exactly half of his total innings. Even against New Zealand, Crawley crossed the 10-run mark just twice in six innings. His average of 14.5 in the series was the worst for any batter in the top seven. Despite this, Crawley has managed to hold on to his spot in the squad for the fifth Test against India. No one would be more desperate for some runs than Zak Crawley in that match.