NOTTINGHAM, United Kingdom: Ben Stokes saluted Jonny Bairstow after the “unbelievable” England batsman demolished New Zealand with his country’s second-fastest Test hundred to win the series on Tuesday.
Bairstow smashed an incredible 77-ball ton and went onto reach 136 from 92 balls with 14 fours and seven sixes.
The 32-year-old’s astonishing display fired England to a five-wicket victory in the second Test at Trent Bridge, giving them their first series triumph since January 2021.
England captain Stokes watched much of Bairstow’s incredible onslaught from the other end of the wicket during his own impressive innings as he defied a knee injury to crush 75 from 70 balls.
The pair left Test world champions New Zealand battered and bruised, but it was Bairstow who stole the show.
“Today just, wow, unbelievable,” Stokes said. “Man! I was out there for a while with him and he had the ‘Jonny eyes’.
“You’ll probably see it on TV. When he has those eyes you’re not stopping him. You let him go on and do what he needs to do.
“The only time I spoke to him was when Matt Henry came out to bounce him and I said don’t think about putting anything on the floor, just put it into the stands. And he did.”
Bairstow revealed he had recharged with a cheese and ham toastie and a cup of coffee at the tea break before his brutal barrage changed the game.
England had been 56-3 at one stage and still needed 160 in the last session, before Bairstow and Stokes fired them to the finish line after just 50 overs.
Prior to Stokes taking over along with new coach Brendon McCullum, England had won once in 17 Tests.
But they have been revitalised since Stokes took over from Joe Root as captain as the start of this series.
Stokes paid tribute to the character of his players, saying: “I can’t take too much credit for that, there are another 10 guys in there, with the ball, with the bat, in the field, it was just a phenomenal performance.
“Today was set up perfectly for the way we want to go about things going forward, pretty simply to run into the danger rather than back away and just stand still.
“That’s definitely what we did today, not just myself and Jonny but credit to Alex Lees at the top. The more he plays the more comfortable he looks as a Test-match opener.
“Everybody at some stage has put their hand up and everybody has contributed to this win.”
Shell-shocked New Zealand scored 553 in the first innings but completely imploded over the final five sessions, surrendering a strong position on the fourth evening with a five-wicket collapse.
Eventually dismissed for 284 in their second innings on Tuesday morning, their wayward bowling lacked the fire and accuracy required to ruffle England on a flat pitch.
Tom Latham, acting as New Zealand captain in the absence of Covid-hit Kane Williamson, admitted his team had no answer for Bairstow’s brilliance.
“Hats off to Jonny. The way they came out after tea took the game away,” he said.
“Heading into the final session it could have gone either way if we got couple of wickets, but when someone plays an innings like that, it took the game away from us.”