The pair took charge of the red ball team in May after a win in 17 Tests – a pitiful form that had dropped the team to eighth in the world rankings. They have won their first two Tests playing an exciting, aggressive cricket, which really should have come as no surprise given the backdrop of the new regime.
As a player, New Zealander McCullum, like Stokes, was known for his aggressive stroke-play, suitable for shorter forms of the game, but effective in Test cricket as well. In his final Test, he scored the fastest century of the game, scoring a 54-ball 100 against Australia in Christchurch.
It was perhaps no coincidence then that Bairstow scored the fastest century for England in 120 years in the second Test as Brendon McCullum took over the role.
The Yorkshireman reached the milestone in 77 balls and played a match-winning knock of 136 off 92 balls as England chased down a target of 299 runs in 50 overs.
Bairstow said, ‘We just looked at it like a one-day match.
“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,” he said.
“If it’s happening now, it’s going to be some travel.”
It was a performance that stood in stark contrast to England’s attempt to chase down the final target of 270 against the same opponents at Lord’s a year earlier.
New Zealand In Hesitation After Losing Wickets, England In Chance To Chase
That day, England played cautiously and only drew 170–3 and former captain Nasser Hussain led criticism of the team for showing “absolutely no intention” to face the challenge.
This time, a batting surface that was still on the fifth day and relatively short boundaries and a fast outfield played into England’s new approach, as admitted by Stokes.
The all-rounder, who was a ‘junior partner’ with Bairstow, said, “Today was perfectly designed for the way we want to go about things going forward. We want to run in danger rather than back down.” Of course that’s what we did today.” , scoring an unbeaten 75 off 70 balls.
Stokes credited the rest of the team for the win, especially opener Alex Lees, who struggled in the recent series against West Indies, whose quick scoring before lunch set the tone.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan has no doubt that McCullum and Stokes’ influence is already producing results.
“Adopt this style of cricket. Weird game maybe where it’s a little ropey, but as long as they commit to being brave and they know it’s Ben Stokes’ style of captaincy,” he said.
“It’s amazing how quickly you can change the mindset. McCullum deserves a huge amount of credit. He told him to influence the game when he bats. Stay busy. Stay positive. Look to score. Look at the way Lees played in the Caribbean. How he played today. He looks like a completely different player. Baz McCullum deserves the credit.”