Ben Stokes wowed by Jonny Bairstow's 'phenomenal' run of form

Results clear to see after Bairstow encouraged to channel white-ball mojo

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Jonny Bairstow is all pumped up after guiding England to a win  •  Getty Images

Jonny Bairstow is all pumped up after guiding England to a win  •  Getty Images

Ben Stokes said "wow" was the only word to describe Jonny Bairstow's recent form after his unbeaten 71 off 44 balls took England to a whitewash-clinching seven-wicket victory against New Zealand on the final day in Leeds.
Bairstow is the world's leading scorer in Test cricket this year with 774 runs - including four hundreds - at an average of 64.50 in 2022, and scored 394 runs off 328 balls this month, including 77 and 95-ball centuries at Trent Bridge and Headingley respectively. His strike rate against New Zealand (120.12) was the second-highest in Test history by a batter scoring more than 300 runs in a series.
Stokes said that his plan with Bairstow had been to make him feel "comfortable" with his role in the side as an attacking middle-order batter at No. 5. "Just take him to the role in the white-ball team: he's very clear, very specific, he knows exactly what he's doing every time he steps out there to play," Stokes said.
"And I feel what we've managed to do - not just with Jonny - is just instill [the idea that] 'this is what we want this team to be about'. Not specifically individuals, but what it's done is allow people to feel comfortable in the role that they are in at the moment.
"I'd never heard a bloke get 130 off 90 balls [136 off 92] the week before and then ask his head coach, 'how shall I go out and play?' Baz [Brendon McCullum] then said, 'go and get your Sudoku book and come and sit next to me and shut up', basically. Whatever you did last week worked, go and do it again.
"With Jonny, he knows what he's in the team to do now and he knows how he wants to play and that's something that he's managed to do with the white-ball group. He's literally playing like he's got the colours on. He's just 'wow'. That's how I can explain the way he's playing at the moment. It's just phenomenal."
Stokes added that Bairstow's first-innings hundred was "even better" than his innings in the run chase at Trent Bridge, after England had slipped to 21 for 4 and then 55 for 6. "To back up that amazing knock at Trent Bridge with the performance in both innings this week was something very special," he said.
"The Trent Bridge innings was obviously amazing to watch. But personally, I think the hundred in the first innings was even better than last week. The circumstances he found himself in at 55 for 6 and being out there and still managing to score a hundred at over a run a ball is something very, very special and should never be overlooked.
"The most pleasing thing for me about this week was the situation we found ourselves in and how we continued to play. To end up with a lead after being 55 for 6 and now, to end up winning the game, is something very special. I know that the confidence that it's going to give the group: it's going to give us a hell of a lot of confidence going forward, especially when we find ourselves in tricky situations as well."
Meanwhile, McCullum said he will continue to encourage Zak Crawley to "chase great moments" despite a lean series against New Zealand which saw him make 87 runs in six innings and culminated in a frenetic, shot-a-ball 25 in the run chase at Headingley. Crawley's career average dipped to 26.68 as a result but he has been retained in the 15-man squad to play India at Edgbaston on Friday and looks set to win his 25th Test cap.
"[I'll] talk to him the same way as if he's come off three hundreds," McCullum told Sky Sports. "To me, he's a rare talent and I don't think there's too many people in world cricket that can play like he does. When I first came in and saw him play in the nets, and watched some of his old innings and some of the footage to get an understanding of him as a player, it pretty quickly stood out that he's got something that other players don't have.
"So my message was, 'there's 10,000 players out there that can play the other way [but] there's only a handful that can play how you do, so just be the best version of yourself.' And I'll keep trying to encourage him to do that.
"And the other thing is just to chase great moments. He's never going to be a consistent type of cricketer; it's just that he's that dynamic that he's not going to be consistent but when he has his day, he's going to win matches and we've just got to make sure that he's courageous enough to keep stepping up, even if things don't haven't necessarily gone that well. I've got confidence in him for sure."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98