Ben Stokes hails 'unbelievable' mindset switch as England power to 3-0 series win

Overton's role in first-innings fightback epitomises the attitude captain expects from team

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Ben Stokes: "When I took over this job, it was more than results for me"  •  Getty Images

Ben Stokes: "When I took over this job, it was more than results for me"  •  Getty Images

Ben Stokes says that England's seven-wicket victory in the third Test at Headingley is the most satisfying moment yet in his team's remarkable renaissance against New Zealand, because the players were able to hold their nerve after collapsing to 55 for 6 on the second afternoon, and stay true to the new attacking approach that has now reaped three impressive run-chases on the bounce.
Stokes was not required to bat on the final afternoon as Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root romped to victory in an unbeaten 111-run stand that spanned a mere 14.3 overs, and during the post-match presentation, he admitted that he was astonished by the speed with which England have managed to put behind them a previous run of one victory in 17 Tests, and embrace the positive attitude that he and Brendon McCullum, the new head coach, have put at the forefront of their approach.
"When I took over this job, it was more than results for me," Stokes said. "It was about changing the mindset of the lads towards Test cricket, about having fun, and enjoying the fact that you're out there representing your country, and the results look after itself.
"But to say that we've done it so quickly is just unbelievable," he added. "I can only do so much, so I've got to show a huge amount of credit to Brendon, in the way that he's come in and influenced this group. The backroom stuff and everyone else has played a part in this series, as well, they've just been absolutely phenomenal.
"To walk away with a 3-0 series win over the best team in the world is a pretty special start. I've got to show a huge amount of testament to the team over these three games. They've been absolutely phenomenal."
Though Stokes himself contributed important runs in both the Lord's and Trent Bridge run-chases, England's thrilling batting was led by his fellow senior players, Root and Bairstow, who scored 396 and 394 runs respectively with two centuries apiece. However, he said that it was the performance of Jamie Overton, who fell agonisingly short of a debut century in the first innings at Headingley, that best epitomised the mentality of his current team.
"Trent Bridge last week was incredible but for me, being 55 for 6 and then doing what we managed to do, in the manner that we did it, was probably the most pleasing thing of the series," Stokes said, after Overton's 97 helped Bairstow to revive the team's prospects in a 241-run stand, a new England record for the seventh wicket.
"That could have been very easy for us to come back into our shell and say 'it's not worked this time, let's just look to play it out'," Stokes said. "But having a lad on debut in Jamie, to have the confidence to go out there and play like that, is something special that we've created in the group.
"The rub-off that we're having on new guys coming in, it's more important than us at the moment," he added. "It's about guys who are going to come into this changing-room in the future. And I think it's really set a level for people who want to come and represent England in Test matches, that this is what we're about."
Another of England's rookies was a major contributor to the 3-0 victory. Matthew Potts did not get the rewards that his efforts deserved at Headingley, but he still finished his debut series as England's leading wicket-taker with 14 at 23.28 - including the prized scalp of Kane Williamson in three innings out of four.
"Pottsy's taken to it like a duck to water," Stokes said. "This week in particular, he will bowl 10 times worse, and probably walk away with a ten-for himself. But this game, he has been just incredible. He's backed up spell, after spell, after spell, over and over again."
Stokes had praise too for Stuart Broad, who set the tone for England with the wicket of Tom Latham in the first over of the match, and in particular, the spinner Jack Leach, who was named Player of the Match after his maiden Test ten-for, and whose confidence was tangible after receiving the backing from Stokes to bowl more than 70 overs in the match, and with challenging fields.
"I wanted to push the lads this week, to really show them what they're capable of doing," Stokes said. "Even Broady [Stuart Broad] - 36 years of age, although he probably doesn't want me to say that - he was bowling 50 overs. And it's fantastic to see Leachy coming in and taking 10 wickets. It's been around the corner for him, and I've never seen a happier dressing-room for someone's individual success. It's been fantastic."
Another player to benefit from the faith invested in him was Ollie Pope, who missed the chance to complete what he had started at Headingley, when he fell in the first over of the final day for 82, but nevertheless finished his maiden series at No.3 with 267 runs at 44.50, including a first century on home soil in the Trent Bridge win.
"When we got together to select this squad, we picked the players that we all thought were the best in England in every position, and we certainly got every player in this team at the moment to fill those positions," Stokes said. "Popey's been fantastic the season for Surrey, he's carrying that form over into England as well, and he's really starting to show the world what Ollie Pope is all about."
There's little time for England to reflect on their achievement, however. On Friday, they will be at Edgbaston, taking on India in the fifth Test of the series that was postponed due to Covid-19 last summer. England are currently 2-1 down, and so need a victory to secure a share of the spoils, but Stokes promised that there would be no holding back from the attitude on display this past month.
"It's crazy to think about that, isn't it?" he said. "It's obviously a completely different opposition, and we've still got a series to try and draw. But we'll be thinking about us and, trust me when I say this, we'll be coming out with exactly the same mindset, even though it's a different opposition."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket