England is tied with the opposition at stumps after an incredible counterattack from a point of no return.
Brendon McCullum most likely doesn’t sit cross-legged on the floor of England’s dressing room while rambling on about karmic principles and trying to prove that he is The One.
The results in just three Test matches have been nothing short of mind-blowing, notwithstanding the absurd mind tricks he may have employed on his new England charges.
Because if England’s victories at Lord’s and Trent Bridge were significant and stirring affirmations of McCullum’s and Ben Stokes’s new and unproven regime, Jonny Bairstow and Jamie Overton’s fightback on the second day at Headingley was unquestionably the point at which all skepticism about the methods behind this madness was thoroughly and empirically dispelled.
By the end of a very loud day, even Headingley’s Western Stand, which must have thought it had seen everything during England’s comeback win against Australia three years ago, was finding new ways to praise a pair of new and old heroes.
Bairstow led the teams off the field by giving a salute to all parts of his home ground. He did this because it was his second century in a row and his fourth in a year that is suddenly becoming epic. Overton just walked behind him sheepishly, with his head slightly bowed, as if he couldn’t believe what he had just seen, let alone been a part of.
Even Headingley’s Western Stand, which probably thought it had seen it all when England beat Australia in a comeback three years ago, found new reasons to cheer at the end of a fun, loud day to honor two heroes, one old and one young.
Bairstow led the teams off the field with a tribute to all parts of his home field after making his second century in as many innings and fourth in a year that is quickly becoming epic. Overton, on the other hand, just followed them with his head down and seemed confused by what he had just seen, let alone done.
The fact that they were together was shocking enough on its own. Their unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 209 was not only the highest in England’s Test history, but it also took 223 balls, 33 fours, and two sixes between the two men.
The lion’s share went to the dominant Bairstow, whose 77-ball match-winning shot at Trent Bridge last week looked like a warm-up. But his younger partner’s performance was even more impressive. He was a fast bowler making his debut, and he went back to the locker room with 89 not out from 106, just 11 runs short of his second first-class hundred in ten years as a professional.
But when you think about where their partnership began—a bad score of 55 for 6—and how Trent Boult, Tim Southee, and Neil Wagner, New Zealand’s best seam trio, rolled back the years for a reunion for the ages, the stand takes on genre-bending qualities.
Boult, in particular, bowled a new-ball spell that was one of the best of his already great career. A flurry of wickets on either side of lunch brought New Zealand’s first innings to a close with 329 runs, including Daryl Mitchell’s excellent 109, which was his third century in as many games but has already been overshadowed for the third time in a row, Boult came out swinging with speed, accuracy, and wicked movement both ways
The English kingpin was then eliminated by Southee, who didn’t do much during the onslaught at Trent Bridge last week, leaving England on the ground at 21 for 4. He went further on the crease, speared in the longer length, and requested for the defensive push as the ball sneaked over the edge and into Tom Blundell’s gloves four balls after turning Joe Root inside out for a huge snick through the cordon.
New Zealand started their aims against England
As Bairstow and Overton got comfortable in the evening practice, the tougher substitute began to travel more forcefully off a pair of primed blades. The assurance in the stroke suggested that Boult’s remarkable lateral movement was beginning to forsake him as Bairstow brought up a 51-ball fifty with a pair of Root-like deflections for four through third man.
Being a man of a substantial build, Overton was content at this juncture to show a methodical approach, a broad bat on the front foot, and a willingness to face the quicks head-on.
Michael Bracewell’s spin, which had previously been a backup option but had already been pushed to the front line due to his relative success at Trent Bridge, provided the opportunity to deploy his levers, nevertheless.
After four overs and 37 runs had been scored, Bracewell was removed from the attack, and Overton had already overtaken his brother Craig’s record for the highest debut score by hammering along to a 68-ball half-century. He demonstrated that he was unquestionably in with an enormous yet graceful six over long-on.
When Tom Blundell was given out to a marginal lbw on 55 but was unable to request a review because the DRS had malfunctioned, New Zealand was even left feeling aggrieved by the type of small controversy that Test cricket has historically loved to gorge out on.
In the past, a moment like that might have continued to be discussed well after the game had ended.
These stories are suddenly progressing quite swiftly. Or are they just standing motionless as England moves all around them?