Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow scored two centuries of victory as England’s revived Test team entered the history books, leading a record 378-player chase at the India ground at Edgbaston.
England completed an impressive seven-wicket haul as their Yorkshire machines went haywire with an undefeated score of 269.
Bairstow scored 114 for his second century of the match and his sixth this year, continuing to succumb to a career-defining injury, while Root’s 142 was a masterclass that took him to the test 28 tons.
England needed 119 and 119 at the start of the fifth day, but did so with comical ease in less than 25 overs and didn’t give a solid chance. It was nominally a series decider, which was postponed to 2021 after a Covid postponement last September, but when a win pushes the score to 2-2, it doesn’t seem fair to link the England side to the past .
They are making an entirely new identity under the bold leadership of Ben Stokes and under the guidance of head coach Brendon McCullum, surprisingly fulfilling the ambition to change the face of Test cricket. After chasing 277, 296, 299 and now 378 this summer, it’s hard to argue against.
His previous record chase came three years ago when Stokes performed an Ashes miracle at Headingley to curl in 359. But where he was a nail-biting attack with number 11 Jack Leach as an unlikely partner, that was easily achieved.
Day four ended with England in complete control at 259 for three, both the hitters in the 70s and India looking increasingly tired on the field. But the conditions in the morning gave tourists reason for optimism.
From the start of the game there was dense cloud cover overhead and enough dim lighting to demand the spotlight. Mohammad Siraj got his first chance to figure out the conditions and his first two balls behaved a bit poorly, the first one taking a long jump and the second a comeback.
It was a bit surprising to see that India quickly asked for a replacement of the ball and when the referees agreed, Bairstow soon started throwing the substitute out of shape. Mohammed Shami looking for an outside edge, opened the boundary continuously through point.
Root was initially content to alternate the offense with singles and had an unfortunate moment when an under-edge slipped past his stumps, behind the wicketkeeper and four more away. By the time Shami conceded four byes on the leg side, the target was down to two points.
India’s initial enthusiasm was already waning, but England were beginning to flourish, with Bairstow slamming Jasprit Bumrah into a thin gap in the middle and Root with one knee to tie Shami into cover.
Bairstow defeated Root in the 1990s, but again went ahead when the former captain got back-to-back boundaries from Bumrah, one at third man and the other at mid-post.
Root was the first player to score triple points off 136 balls, playing tricks with Ricochet at the slips. He set up a clinic after completing his century, dismissing all-rounder Shardul Thakur.
Coming onto the field first and hitting hard and flat from above, he came back into the crease and landed the last move up his sleeve – a reverse ramp for six over third man. It’s a scene he’s added to his already extensive repertoire this summer, but every time it appears, it leaves his chin on the floor.
Bairstow cautiously moved into his hundredth, not wanting to let another golden opportunity slip with his fingers, starting a familiar racing fest by scoring a run against Ravindra Jadeja.
With the milestone achieved, he crushed Siraj into several balls before hitting the boundary of three muscles, leaving the moment of victory to Root. He reversed the spinner to four, then ran for the deciding run, the finishing touches on a very unbelievable performance.
England’s heartfelt bowling performance on the fourth day went a long way towards a famous victory, while Alex Lees and Zak Crowley set the tone for the chase with an ambitious 107-player start.