Three things we learned from the England-New Zealand series

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Jonny Bairstow (Getty Images)
Jonny Bairstow (Getty Images)

England completed a breathtaking 3-0 series rout of Test world champions New Zealand with a dashing seven-wicket win at Headingley on Monday.

Below AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from England's first campaign under their new leadership team of coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes.

New attitude

A year ago, England made absolutely no effort to chase down a target of 273 in the first Test against New Zealand at Lord's as the match petered out into a tame draw.

Yet this series saw them chase down stiff targets of 277 and 299 in five-wicket wins at Lord's and Trent Bridge before Jonny Bairstow's blistering fifty made light of their pursuit of 296 in Leeds.

"If we were on the wrong side of results of these games, if they played out the same way but we'd lost, I would have walked off a very, very happy captain with the way that everybody's applied themselves and the attitude they've given to every single day, every single session, every single hour of these three Tests matches," said Stokes.

Bairstow benefits 

Bairstow has now played 86 Tests for England yet there has often been uncertainty about his position in the side, with the Yorkshireman variously deployed as a top-order batter, middle-order run-getter and wicketkeeper-batsman.

But, relieved of the gloves by Ben Foakes and given the freedom to attack by Stokes and McCullum he now appears settled at number five and able to play in the same fashion that has made him a world-class white-ball batsman.

For evidence look no further than a stunning hundred in a run-chase at Trent Bridge and his first-innings 162 at Headingley -- not to mention his heroics on Monday.

In 2022 he has already scored 774 runs in seven Tests with four centuries at an average of 64.50.

"His role in the white-ball team is very clear, very specific, and he knows exactly what to do every time he steps out to play," said Stokes.

"Now he's playing for us like he's got the colours (one-day kit) on. With Jonny it's just about making sure he knows what he's in the team to do."

Captaincy matters 

The late former Australia skipper Richie Benaud was fond of saying cricket captaincy was "90 percent luck and 10 percent skill, but don't try it without the 10 percent".

Jack Leach's time in international cricket has been blighted by injury, illness, inconsistent selection and often unsympathetic handling.

But at Headingley, encouraged to attack by skipper Stokes, who gave the left-arm spinner 'in-out' fields that also offered a measure of protection from big hits, the Somerset bowler responded with the first 10-wicket haul of his Test career to be named the player of the match despite all the blazing hitting by his England team-mates.

"I think the biggest thing is having belief in myself and that's what Ben and Baz (McCullum) have really helped me with," said Leach.

"I am really enjoying working with Stokesy. I say 'what about putting mid-on back?' and he just says no. It's really attacking and I am enjoying bowling like that as well.

"I've never experienced anything like the atmosphere in that dressing room, this positive way of doing things," he added.


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