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Incredible England turnaround to win series shows value of leadership, says Michael Atherton

Michael Atherton

Cricket Expert & Columnist

“A change of leadership and a bit of optimism, an energy, a vibrancy in the team can change things pretty quickly”; Michael Atherton says England’s recent turnaround is a ‘lesson in the value of leadership’ with the side resurgent under Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes

Last Updated: 14/06/22 8:43pm

Ben Stokes has won two from two since taking over as England's Test captain

Ben Stokes has won two from two since taking over as England’s Test captain

After Jonny Bairstow’s stunning century took England to a series-clinching victory over New Zealand in the second Test, Michael Atherton says the turnaround is a ‘lesson in the value of leadership’…

What a difference a year makes, ey? Cast your mind back 12 months to a timid, cautious England team not going for a run-chase that was a little over three-an-over.

Then here, that statement of intent from the off – ‘we are going to go for this win!’ It is just the difference between looking at glass half full or glass half empty.

I take my hat off to the new management and this England team for having a go and getting there so easily in the end, it was a cakewalk!

Highlights of day five of the second Test between England and New Zealand from Trent Bridge

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Highlights of day five of the second Test between England and New Zealand from Trent Bridge

Highlights of day five of the second Test between England and New Zealand from Trent Bridge

Jonny Bairstow playing the innings of his life – 136 from 92 – and then Ben Stokes playing second fiddle for a while. Then once Bairstow got out, had his captain’s hat on – ‘I’m going to see this home’.’

There was a slight echo of the 2005 Ashes game at The Oval when Brett Lee went at Kevin Pietersen with The Ashes on the line. KP was going, ‘do I stick, or do I twist? I’m going to go for it.’ Bairstow was exactly the same.

The slight difference here was that the boundary was so short that when Matt Henry went for that short-pitched ploy, he’s not got much protection on the legside.

I think England took 13 from the first over after tea, 13 from the second over – I think it was 49 from the first four overs and suddenly the game was transformed. Bairstow was up and away, and threatening Gilbert Jessop’s 120-year record (for England fastest Test hundred).

Highlights from Jonny Bairstow's incredible hundred at Trent Bridge

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Highlights from Jonny Bairstow’s incredible hundred at Trent Bridge

Highlights from Jonny Bairstow’s incredible hundred at Trent Bridge

This is an incredible result. New Zealand made 553 – this is the sixth-highest first-innings total in a Test match that has ended in defeat. Not even a close defeat in the end, England have won by five wickets with 20-odd overs to spare.

It really came down to their first innings, they got themselves up to New Zealand but did so pushing a rate of a little over four-an-over that still left more than five sessions left in the game. At that point, England were much the favoured of the two sides to win it.

We talked a lot on commentary about the trickiness of that third innings for New Zealand and that’s how it panned out. There was a bit of anxiety with those two run-outs, one or two soft dismissals and, of course, that gave England their opportunity today.

Stokes and Brendon McCullum have made the perfect start in their respective new roles

Stokes and Brendon McCullum have made the perfect start in their respective new roles

It’s an incredible lesson in the value of leadership, really. This is the same team that went to the Caribbean, with the exception of Anderson and Broad. Many of the same players that were in Australia.

Not for one minute am I saying that all England’s problems are solved but if you go back to Australia and all the angst and the navel-gazing about English cricket, structures that need to be ripped up and this and that.

Many of us who watched what happened in the Ashes said that many of the problems, or some of the problems at least, are just at the top. A change of leadership and a bit of optimism, energy and vibrancy in the team can change things pretty quickly.

It’s probably been a quicker turnaround than many of us thought but, nevertheless, the value of leadership.

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Lastly, hats off to Trent Bridge for opening the gates with free tickets for day five. By 10pm on Monday night there were no tickets left. Of course, it’ll be a different kind of crowd, they’ll be a lot of people in here that won’t necessarily be regulars. They might be watching Test cricket for the first time and just be waking up to the possibilities of the five-day game, which is a fantastic game as we all know.

They’ll have taken some life-long memories away from Trent Bridge.



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