Root and Bairstow star as England level India series in record chase
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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.
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."
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."
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.
"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.
But their unbroken stand, built on largely orthodox if hard-hit strokeplay, was eventually worth 269.
Bairstow hits out
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.
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.
India 1st Innings 416 (R Pant 146, R Jadeja 104; J Anderson 5-60)
India 2nd Innings 245 (C Pujara 66, R Pant 57; B Stokes 4-33)
England 2nd Innings (target: 378, overnight: 259-3)
A. Lees run out (Shami/Jadeja) 56
Z. Crawley b Bumrah 46
O. Pope c Pant b Bumrah 0
J. Root not out 142
J. Bairstow not out 114
Extras (b8, lb7, nb2, w3) 20
Total (3 wkts, 76.4 overs, 350 mins) 378
Did not bat: B Stokes, S Billings, M Potts, S Broad, J Leach, J Anderson
Fall of wickets: 1-107 (Crawley), 2-107 (Pope), 3-109 (Lees)
Bowling: Bumrah 17-1-74-2 (1nb); Shami 15-2-64-0; Jadeja 18.4-3-62-0; Siraj 15-0-98-0 (1w); Thakur 11-0-65-0 (1nb, 2w);
India: Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant (wkt), Shreyas Iyer, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah (capt), Mohammed Siraj
Result: England won by seven wickets
Player of the match: Jonny Bairstow (ENG)