Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow smashed unbeaten hundreds to pull off England’s record chase of 378 against India for a series-levelling seven-wicket victory on Tuesday in the re-arranged fifth Test.
The hosts went into the final day at Edgbaston needing 119 while India, who held a 2-1 lead going into the contest, needed seven wickets.
Overnight batsmen Root and Bairstow sealed victory in the first session, exhibiting an attacking brand of cricket which is quickly becoming the hallmark of the Test team under new coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes.
India’s faint victory hopes hinged on getting early breakthroughs but their seamers could neither separate the Yorkshire duo nor could they stem the boundary flow.
Root was so much at home on a pitch with variable bounce that he treated Shardul Thakur like a spinner — stepping out against the seam bowler and playing a reverse-scoop against him that went for a six.
Root’s unbeaten 142, his 28th Test hundred, also included 19 boundaries.
Bairstow brought up his second hundred of the match with a tight single before celebrating it with three consecutive boundaries off Mohammed Siraj.
“Just two lads from Yorkshire, grown up playing together from academy to Test matches, it’s pretty special,” Bairstow, adjudged man-of-the-match for his fourth hundred in five innings, said of his epic unbroken stand of 269 with Root.
England’s previous highest successful run chase came in 2019 when they reached a 359-run target in an Ashes Test against Australia.
Tuesday’s victory follows England’s home win against New Zealand when they chased down targets of 277, 299 and 296 to blank the world champions 3-0.
The five-match series could not be completed last year following COVID-19 cases in the India camp ahead of the final match at Old Trafford.
Root was declared ‘Man of the Series’ for England — in five matches, he scored 737 runs at an average of 105.28 with four centuries and one half-century. His best individual score in this series was 180*. He also took two wickets for his side.
“Love playing. It is as simple as that. The environment has been great and the guys are having fun in the last four weeks. There is absolute clarity when we were chasing it down and there was total belief. Absolutely did not think of stepping away from the game. There are a bunch of lovely lads and Stokes has the backing of everyone. Our responsibility is to keep everyone entertained and keep it fun,” Root said during a post-match presentation.
Talking about his form, Root said: “It is something you are constantly searching for and something you rarely find. You want to keep it as fun as possible.”
On his batting partner Bairstow, Root said: “Still watching Jonny (Jonny Bairstow) bat is great, I just wanted to give him strike. I have accepted that you are not going to have success all the time. As a 5-10-year-old kid, having fun is what you want and that is what is the most enjoyable part of the career. We have been riding a brilliant wave of confidence after brilliant performances against NZ. The start the two openers got us off to was superb and they put the pressure back on. It made it a lot easier for us and those scores were a lot more than what was seen on the score sheet. It was great fun doing it,” he added.
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