Root and Bairstow star as England level India series in record chase

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BIRMINGHAM: Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow both hit hundreds as England continued their resurgence with a record fourth-innings chase to beat India by seven wickets in the Covid-delayed fifth Test at Edgbaston on Tuesday.

Set 378 to win, England finished on 378-3, with former captain Root 142 not out and Bairstow 114 not out – his second hundred of the match after he made 106 in the hosts’ first-innings 284.

Victory saw England level this five-match series at 2-2.

No England side had previously made more to win in the fourth innings of a Test than 359, when now captain Ben Stokes’ brilliant century led them to a thrilling victory over Australia at Headingley three years ago.

But that record was overhauled with ease after England’s first series under a new leadership duo of Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum had seen them chase down seemingly stiff targets of 277, 299 and 296 during a 3-0 whitewash of Test world champions New Zealand.

“It’s great fun at the moment,” player of the match Bairstow told Sky Sports. “The last month has been a fantastic month of Test cricket for all the lads.”

Root was named England’s player of the series – which started under his captaincy in 2021 – after amassing a mammoth 737 runs, including four hundreds, at superlative average of over 105.

But he preferred to pay tribute to Bairstow, whom he has known since their school-days.

“He’s striking the ball so clean, he looks very calm and in control out there,” Root said.

“It’s great fun and it’s great to see someone I’ve known from being 12 years old, start to realise his true potential in this format of the game.”

England have now won all four Tests since Stokes succeeded Root as captain, with the all-rounder saying: “378 five-six weeks ago would have been scary, but it was good.”

‘Test cricket is never easy’

India stand-in captain Jasprit Bumrah, leading the side in place of the Covid-hit Rohit Sharma, was the tourists’ player of the series with 23 wickets at 22.47 – a record for an Indian bowler during a Test campaign in England.

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“Test cricket is never easy,” said the fast bowler. “We had three good days and we were a little short with the bat and we let the opposition in.”

England resumed on 259-3, needing just 119 more runs to win.

Root was 76 not out overnight and Bairstow unbeaten on 72 after the Yorkshire duo had come together at 109-3, with England having lost three wickets in quick succession either side of tea.

But their unbroken stand, built on largely orthodox if hard-hit strokeplay, was eventually worth 269.

Bairstow hits out

As England sped towards a target they achieved inside 77 overs it was hard to believe that they had won just one of their preceding 17 Tests prior to the New Zealand series.

Root got to his hundred first when he late cut Mohammed Siraj for a 14th four in 136 balls for his third Test century of the season after two tons against New Zealand.

Bairstow’s scampering single off Ravindra Jadeja saw him to a 138-ball century, including 12 fours and a six.

By getting to three figures, Bairstow became the first England player to hit two centuries in the same Test since Andrew Strauss against India at Chennai in 2008.

It was Bairstow’s sixth century in eight Tests in 2022 and Root’s fifth in seven.

India could have put England under greater pressure after starting the penultimate day on Monday three wickets down and scoring another 120 runs. But they lost their way as the last six wickets fell for just 55 as a succession of batsmen succumbed to the short ball.

Even so, there had previously been only two successful fourth-innings chases above 200 in a Test at Edgbaston, with South Africa making 283-5 in 2008 and England 211-3 against New Zealand in 1999.

But England’s newly aggressive ‘Bazball’ approach, named in honour of McCullum’s nickname, was evident from the start of their latest chase, with Alex Lees and Zak Crawley sharing a century opening stand in 19.5 overs – the fastest in England Test history.

This decider should have been played in Manchester last September only to be postponed just hours before the start because of coronavirus concerns within the India camp.

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