Jonny Bairstow celebrates scoring a century during the fifth day of the second Test match at Trent Bridge in Nottingham on Tuesday. AP / AFP
New Zealand were bowled out for 284 before lunch, setting England a target of 299 to win — the highest ever to claim a Test victory at Trent Bridge.
It was a challenging target but England reached it in just 50 overs after Bairstow and skipper Ben Stokes (75 not out from 70 balls) made hay in front of a packed crowd. The match set the record for the most boundaries in a Test match with 250 in total, including 24 sixes.
James Anderson (second right) and teammates celebrate the dismissal of Tom Latham during the fourth day of the second Test match. AP
England were 139 for four at tea, having lost leading batsman Joe Root for three, with the game in the balance. But then Bairstow and Stokes ripped the New Zealand attack apart in devastating fashion, hammering 102 in the first nine overs after the interval.
Stokes was hampered by a knee injury, but with Bairstow taking the lead, their partnership was worth 179 runs in 20.1 overs.
Bairstow flew to his century in 77 balls — the second fastest Test century by an England player, one ball slower than Gilbert Jessop's record against Australia at The Oval in 1902.
"It was great fun, one of those things when you get in that mood, just go with it. Do or die, so you've got to do," said Bairstow.
The Yorkshireman finally departed to a standing ovation after he was caught behind off Trent Boult, having hit seven sixes and 14 fours. Stokes and Ben Foakes took care of the remaining 27 runs to soak up the cheers of a crowd that had been given free tickets for the match.
Jonny Bairstow celebrates reaching his century. Reuters
The win was a vindication of the positive approach taken by skipper Stokes and new coach Brendon McCullum — himself known for aggressive attacking cricket.
"Today was set up perfectly for how we want to go about it, run into the danger rather than back away or stand still," said Stokes.
England had won just one in 17 Tests before appointing Stokes and McCullum in May and the pair have won their first two matches with an attacking approach with both bat and ball.
"There are going to be times when it doesn't come off. That's part and parcel of it," said Bairstow. "We just looked at it like a one-day game. The pitch was good, the outfield was fast. With the players we have, the brand of cricket we want to play, days like today are very exciting. If this is happening now, it's going to be some journey," he added.
The tone was set by opener Alex Lees, who struck three boundaries off the opening over from Tim Southee but then Zak Crawley fell victim to Trent Boult before lunch, edging the left-armer to Tim Southee at slip.
Ollie Pope, the first innings centurion, was caught behind off the impressive seamer Matt Henry for 18 but New Zealand's spirits were truly raised when they claimed the wicket of Joe Root.
Boult produced a fine caught and bowled with Root finding a leading edge to leave England at 56-3.
Lees had struggled for runs after lunch but was just getting into his stride again when he was caught behind off a fine delivery from Southee — the seamer's first wicket of the Test.
Then came the Bairstow and Stokes show and the air of tension and apprehension was rapidly turned into an exhilarating festival of audacious big hitting.
New Zealand were left to ponder how they had lost the match after making 553 in their first innings but their decision to attack Bairstow with short pitched bowling after tea -- and to stick with that approach while he peppered the stand -- will feature heavily in their post-mortem.
The tourists were without their captain Kane Williamson in this test, after he tested positive for COVID, and seamer Kyle Jamieson was unable to bowl in the second innings due to a back injury, but this will be a tough loss to recover from.
"At tea it was still in the balance but the way Jonny and Ben were able to play was outstanding," said stand-in skipper Tom Latham.
Potts, who took a superb four wickets for 13 runs in New Zealand's meagre first innings 132, dismissed both star batsman Williamson and opener Tom Latham on Friday, with the World Test champions 38 for three in their second innings at lunch.
There will be a new fast bowler to go with a new captain and new coach when English cricket'sTest team launches its new era on Thursday at Lord's.
After heavy defeats in Brisbane and Adelaide, the visitors must win in Melbourne to keep the five-Test series alive, with Australia only needing a draw to retain the urn as holders.
It was a remarkable comeback by an inexperienced South African team, who were outplayed in the first Test in Centurion but came back strongly to win the next two matches despite losing the toss and having to bat last in all three matches.
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