Another Bairstow blitz helps England seal series sweep

England ended a 3-0 series against world Test champions New Zealand a year after losing to the same opposition, also at home.

Demanding 296 to win, they knocked them out in 54.2 overs with seven wickets to spare.

To the delight of the fans who had been admitted to Headingley for free, Jonny Bairstow finished the chase with a four through the covers and a six from wide down the middle in successive balls from Michael Bracewell.

Bairstow smashed eight fours and three sixes to complete 71 steps from 44 balls, making a 30-ball half-century en route, England’s second-fastest in Tests, a game after reaching the second-fastest century fast from England.

The right-hander finished the series with 394 points at a staggering 120.12 strike rate and 78.80 average.

It is the highest hit ever by a single hitter in a series in which he scored over 350 runs.

Joe Root had a calmer but still fast undefeated 86 on 125 balls.

Nicholls the last to be defeated by the non-striker

It is England’s first series win since winning Sri Lanka at the start of 2021 and after a run in which they had won one and lost 11 of 17 Tests.

The transformation under new manager Brendon McCullum and new captain Ben Stokes sets England up well for the final Test of last year’s unfinished series against India. It starts on Friday (July 1) with England 2-1.

“It went really well,” Stokes said. “Coming away with a 3-0 series win against the best team in the world is a pretty special start. It’s a huge testament to the team.

“When I took over, it wasn’t just about results – it was about changing the mindset of guys towards Test cricket, having fun, enjoying representing your country.Then the results will take care of themselves.

“It’s amazing to have done it so quickly.”

McCullum said: “I think it’s a pretty simple game. Sometimes we can get caught up in the fear of failure and maybe try to protect something rather than take advantage of the opportunity you have to represent your country.”

England, 2-183 overnight and needing 113 runs with eight wickets remaining, had to wait for victory as rain washed away the morning session.

When play resumed, Ollie Pope was quickly beaten by Tim Southee for 82.

This caused century maker Bairstow to join Root, who had taken over the 55th pitch. The Yorkshire pair, at their home ground in Leeds, wasted little time clearing runs, adding 111 from 87 balls in around an hour.

It sealed a third consecutive winning run in the series with England chasing goals of 277, 299 and 296 with panache.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said: “It’s been an incredible run. We certainly had our chances in all three games, but it’s thanks to the way the England team played.

“When they were under pressure, they chose to counter-attack and they did it very well.”

Former captain Root, who made 396 runs at 99 in the series, said: “It’s so much fun to play and be part of. If you can’t enjoy a series like this then why do you play?”

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