16 conclusions from England's stunning second Test victory at Trent Bridge

The dust has settled on another fascinating Test match between England and New Zealand. Dave Tickner looks back at what we learned from the Trent Bridge epic.

Jonny Bairstow's stunning 136 from just 92 balls and Ben Stokes' unbeaten 75 led England to an incredible five wicket victory, and with it an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three game series.

The impact of new head coach Brendon McCullum was already being felt after the first Test, but his stamp on Trent Bridge can't be understated either. There's so much to unpick.

What a ridiculous game of cricket

England's Ben Stokes celebrates the Will Young run out in the second Test

It almost defies description and analysis, which is a problem when you've got to write 16 pieces of description and analysis about it because someone once did so about a football game on Football365 for a laugh and now you're stuck with the format apparently forever.

But before we attempt anything vaguely serious let's just start with this: what an enormous, absurd amount of fun that all was.

That match was a huge shot in the arm for Test cricket everywhere.

It doesn't matter where exactly you sit on the "Test cricket is dying!" panic - the sky has been falling in for Test cricket almost as long as it has been around, and it's still here the mad old time-consuming bastard - to realise that games like this, with atmospheres like this, in front of crowds like this can only help the longest form.

We're not asking that every game or every series be as absurd as this one; just that this sort of thing happens often enough to keep everyone interested.

This is now one of those matches that joins the likes of Edgbaston '05 and Headingley '81 or '19 in the consciousness. It is a game that will be brought up every time there is third-innings declaration speculation in every match England play from now until the seas rise and claim us all.

Five-wicket win is a footnote

Just as at Lord's, the game ends in a five-wicket win for England. Just as at Lord's, this tells but a fraction of the story.

But it's a series-winning 2-0 lead for Ben Stokes' new-look side against the reigning world champions and even without the extraordinary manner in which it has been accomplished it would be a hugely significant achievement given just how flat and tired England's Test cricket had become.

After one win in 17, the transformation in mood is astonishing. England can't, one imagines, carry on winning games quite so ludicrously as they have in this series as any kind of long-term plan, but they can carry on playing with this sense of freedom and joy.

Games like this must be remembered when, as such high-wire cricket surely must, things go wrong. If you can't handle England at their 141 all out worst, then you don't deserve them at their 299-5 off 50 overs best.

England's commitment to Bazball is swift and seemingly already total. They are not going to play any other way.

At Lord's, there was never really any other way for England to play it. Here, though, was an early test of their commitment to the brand. A chase of 300 from 70-odd overs was rejectable even on this fast-scoring ground.

A target of 300-odd from 70-odd overs was absolutely rejectable at 93-4 in the 26th over. That the very idea of Bairstow and Stokes not going for it seemed preposterous is testament to the wholesale change in outlook.

That a chase of 300 never felt daunting even with Joe Root back in the sheds for a handful really is quite something.

That Stokes' instructions to Bairstow - "don't keep it down, put it in the back of the stands" - had clear echoes of Eoin Morgan's "smash the lights out" was neither coincidence nor accident is also undeniable.

One advantage for this revolution is that some absolutely key players - Stokes, Bairstow, Root - have already been through one such transformation.

Red Ball Reset

England's Great Red Ball Reset has another crucial similarity to the White Ball Reset of 2015. That journey would end, memorably, with a barest-of-margins victory against New Zealand at Lord's in the 2019 World Cup final.

But it also began against a New Zealand side led by Brendon McCullum.

They had just lost the World Cup final to Australia in a tournament where England had crashed out in the group stage. Yet when England came along playing nonsense cricket and smashing the ball all around the country instead of trying to get 250 and hope it was enough, McCullum's New Zealand went "Sure, we'll play along".

They really are a great bunch of lads. England won that series 3-2, fans were won over and the all-out attacking style was such a huge hit that it was able to weather future storms. It was, without doubt, worth it.

England would lose 3-2 to Australia later that summer but it didn't matter. This was going to work. But would it have done so if it had started against a team less willing to play their part in the grand entertainment even if it wasn't particularly wise to do so? We'll never know.

What we do know is that the Red Ball Reset has started exactly the same way.

Thrilling cricket from England, this time with McCullum in their corner, against a New Zealand side that might have expected to beat an England side on the back of a string of drab and embarrassing defeats but that has, when faced with something new and exciting, decided to play a full part in running with it even if that might not be prudent.

When both teams rack up huge first-innings scores in Tests it is so often the team batting first that ends up under pressure.

Even with a small lead, as New Zealand had, you're suddenly the team that can't really see a route to victory because setting the game up is so tricky to balance. But the manner of the Black Caps' second-innings dismissals was still pretty carefree.

Tom Latham can be excused the brainfade that led to him leaving a ball on middle stump; he's a stand-in captain who had just faced a brutal examination.

But the rest?

Watch them back and they make ugly viewing. Pull shots, cut shots, run outs, flapping at short balls, thrashing to mid-on. Not one New Zealand batter was 'got out' in that second innings.

Noble commitment to the entertainment. Noble but stupid. Harsh to be critical of the batting from a team that made 837 runs in the Test and set a target of basically 300 in the final innings, but they ceded control when there was no real need to do so beyond vibes.

The best of Bairstow

So, Jonny Bairstow, then. Absolutely extraordinary.

The numbers of it are pure daft. He got to his hundred from 77 balls. He scored his last 92 runs post-tea in 44 balls.

The fastest ever Test century scored by an England batter when we don't have to rely on a journalist from the time saying "Yeah, it was 76 balls that" which is genuinely how Gilbert Jessop holds the record for what was undoubtedly, no matter how many balls it actually took, an extraordinary innings in a one-wicket win in 1902.

But let's be real; Bairstow holds that record for all matches with a reliable scoring record.

The shots and bravura of it all are insane enough, but the wider context is key. Not only was it a matchwinning innings of rare brutality but it came at a crucial time for Bairstow personally.

Rightly or wrongly, the only England batter to make Test centuries in both West Indies and Australia this winter came into that innings with not only the team to think about but also once again his own place in the side.

The anointing of Ollie Pope at three and the presence of Joe Root at four and Ben Stokes at six meant that, despite England's assorted batting frailties over the last 18 months, Bairstow's was by default the only place in the side under any pressure from Harry Brook's outrageous run of form for Yorkshire.

After 25 runs in the first three innings of the series, Bairstow will have been looking over his shoulder. Brook, it is now clear, will have to wait.

Stokes not the hero for a change

Even in an ODI - and like everyone else we enjoyed England chasing down their 299-run target in 50 overs - it's pretty unusual to have a run-a-ball 75 not out relegated to support act status.

That was the fate for the skipper on Tuesday evening, but he didn't seem to mind. Scored the last 40 of them off one leg as well, which was even more ridiculous if slightly worrying.

We were quite adamant that Stokes not be named England captain despite the obvious dearth of alternatives.

Not out of any concern he wasn't capable but just that we've seen time and again what a drain the England captaincy can be and Stokes has a vast workload already.

Those concerns remain despite an incredible start to the job. If there is a criticism of how he's actually gone about the job thus far, and it seems churlish but also necessary, it is - predictably - how he uses himself with the ball.

Bowling captains are always going to be accused of under-bowling or over-bowling themselves but with Stokes it's not so much quantity as timing.

The early evidence is that while he will bowl his fair share of overs still, he tends to view himself as the last option to turn to.

That's not always going to be the case. He was England's best bowler on a chastening opening day yet didn't appear until the 20th over of day two after all four other bowlers had been given a go without success.

The Mitchell and Blundell partnership

At that point Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell were doing a passable impression of their own partnership from the second innings at Lord's.

A lot has happened since that partnership on days one and two but it was still extraordinarily good, not least for being a back-to-back effort from two of New Zealand's less heralded players.

Given New Zealand are a team of unheralded players - they are literally world champions remember - that's kind of on-brand, I guess. It wasn't just a massive partnership but also a crucial one.

On a flat pitch and fast-scoring ground, New Zealand had just got themselves in a touch of bother at 169-4 having twice lost a pair of wickets in quick succession.

In any sane match, what Mitchell and Blundell did over the ensuing 58 overs and 236 runs should have been a) enough to ensure New Zealand couldn't lose and also b) eye-catchingly fast. Turns out neither of those things were in any way true, but it was still remarkable.

Blundell got the hundred that cliché dictates he deserved at Lord's, while Mitchell added a career-best 190 to join Joe Root on both the Lord's and Trent Bridge honours boards this summer.

Both Mitchell and Blundell are simple, unfussy players. They are very New Zealand, really: put them together and somehow it always turns out greater than the sum of the parts.

Joe Root century

Let's continue rattling through those dull first innings when not much happened, yeah. Get back to talking about day five soon.

Another hundred for Joe Root, blah, blah, blah. Comfortably the best batter in the world right now and little more to be said about his form.

This was his 10th Test century in the last year and a half - enough to constitute a pretty decent career on its own - and also his fastest.

He scored at five an over pretty much throughout and even ended up playing reverse-paddles for six off Tim Southee less than a week after Geoffrey Boycott had spoken admiringly about how Root doesn't do things like that because he plays "proper cricket".

Great stuff from a Yorkshire batter we can actually be proud of. The thing with Root is that he seems to score a century every match now and every time he does the commentators say "One of his very best" and somehow, illogically, they are always right.

But Root's 27th Test hundred was far less important for England's overall development than Ollie Pope's second.

In just his second match at number three - and that's second first-class match, not just second Test match - he played beautifully.

England have had false dawns before, but if Pope can bat this well in that position and actually nail that spot down then it has an incalculable impact on England's batting woes.

Not least in allowing Root to just crack on breaking all manner of records from his favoured spot at four.

He's a great team man is Root, and there is no reason whatsoever to doubt his enthusiastic celebration of Pope's hundred was entirely genuine, but there must have been the tiniest bit of his brain thinking what good news it was for him as well.

Another James Anderson milestone

A word on James Anderson, who continues to be extraordinary. Went past 650 Test wickets this week, a number that boggles the mind.

Even if he doesn't quite get to 700 he now looks certain to end up 100 past Glenn McGrath's 563 which is hard to compute.

Anderson also now has 383 Test wickets since turning 30; that's the same number as Ian Botham managed in his entire career.

That mark was once the all-comers' world record and was the England standard right up until Anderson (and then Broad) cruised past it.

In a match where 1675 runs were scored for 35 wickets from 408.3 overs, Anderson's match figures were 37.4-10-82-5. He turns 40 next month. Cherish him.

Went past 650 Test wicket - mental. Matched Botham's career total just since his 30th birthday - mental. Turns 40 in a fortnight - mental.

Trent Boult with the ball

And if we're bringing up Anderson's impressive figures in a match dominated so thoroughly by the bat, then it's only right to do likewise with Trent Boult.

His own match figures of 49.3-9-200-8 might have had the economy thrashed out of them in the daftness of Tuesday evening but still make pretty reading in context.

Like Anderson, he is a champion swing bowler of remarkable longevity. Their combined figures of 13-282 show just how different a game they were playing compared to the rest.

Trent Boult with the bat

But let's be real, the best thing about Trent Boult isn't his bowling, it's his batting.

While he may be more of an Anderson with the ball, he's at least as entertaining as Broad with the bat.

He plays shots nobody else could even think of and does it all while providing his own ball-by-ball commentary and - crucially - generally getting out before it all stops being funny and just starts being bone-achingly dull.

He is, in essence, precisely the batter Steve Smith or Marnus Labuschagne would be in any just world. He is also now the proud owner of two remarkable records.

First, he has scored more Test runs at number 11 than anyone else, and best bad batter of all time feels like a fitting description of the great man, and - more subjectively - can lay claim to having played the most entertaining innings of a day that featured some other bloke scoring 136 off 92 balls.

Tim Southee nightmare

Yet while Boult had one of his very best games, his old buddy Tim Southee had a desperate, torrid struggle.

Even when he finally did get a wicket after being flogged all round Nottingham in both first innings and second, it was the wicket that brought Bairstow and Stokes together to score 179 in the next 20 overs.

Sometimes it just really isn't your game.

And he didn't even manage any of his customary fun with the bat against England either, making just four in the first innings before having the lid put firmly on his match by being run out without scoring in the second after being sold an absolute dummy by Daryl Mitchell who, on the evidence of this match, has only that one flaw to eliminate from his batting now.

Woeful catching

All the bowlers in this game - those who struggled and those who very much didn't - could point to the standard of catching with some justified grumpiness.

Again, the apparently symbiotic relationship between England and New Zealand whenever they play cricket against each other was in effect.

If one collapses, the other collapses. One rattles along at four or five an over, the other rattles along at four or five an over. One racks up 500, the other racks up 500. One catches everything, the other catches everything. One drops everything…

In all, 12 catches of varying difficulty were dropped or missed across a frantic five days in Nottingham. In a game where bat was so clearly on top it's a huge number and many of them were absolutely decisive, as well.

For all the dominance of the bat on those first three days, no player on either side reached 50 in the first innings without a life. The whole match could have been very different in a great many ways.

England's top order finally clicking?

Six of England's top seven have now made at least one half-century in this series now thanks to Bairstow's belated and half-decent contribution.

The other is Zak Crawley, who arguably isn't in the top six best Kent batters right now, never mind England.

Any thoughts that he might be replaced for Headingley were ended by England's victory here. But you'd imagine a spot at Edgbaston the following week against India - England really do play a lot of cricket, don't they? - will require runs in Leeds.

In many ways, he should really be a big beneficiary of the new regime and an outlook that forgives and even encourages expansive extravagance. But counterintuitively it seems to have worked more for Alex Lees than it has for Crawley.

Lees is a good example of how a positive approach doesn't mean a one-size-fits-all approach.

It doesn't require everyone to bat like Bairstow or Stokes or Root - which is just as well because few can - but just to be the best and most positive version of themselves.

Lees has gone from a man who looked scared to play an attacking shot in the Caribbean to one who scores three boundaries in the first over of a 300-run chase on the final day.

This version of Lees is still never going to score a 77-ball hundred but he's still clearly a better player than the one we've seen before. He's been freed up by the change.

Crawley didn't need freeing up. He already played the shots. What he needs is more intangible: form. In a run-laden county summer, he came into these Tests with no real runs behind him.

There are others - including county team-mates and players with Tests under their belts - breathing down his neck and he is trying to fight his way back into form in Test cricket against a bowler in Boult who is one of the best in the business and appears to have his number.

And it won't get any easier against India or South Africa later in the summer. A big decision could be looming over England head honcho Rob Key's favourite player.

Silly old Trent Bridge

While we bathe in the aftermath of an astonishing day to end an astonishing Test as records tumbled, including for most boundaries ever in a Test match, it would be remiss not to address the fact that Trent Bridge - righteously beloved as it is by all for many, many reasons - is now a very, very silly cricket ground.

Fundamentally, the otherwise excellent redevelopment of the ground has left the actual playing area no longer cricket-ground shaped.

There will always be one boundary that is all but undefendable when the pitch is even halfway decent. It's no coincidence that England's most bonkers white-ball batting happens here, nor that it is now also the spiritual home of the red-ball reinvention.

It almost needs its own category in the stats. It is at least as silly in shape and size as the rugby grounds New Zealand sometimes use.

Change of mindset

Which also brings us to another point. There is an obvious and to some extent valid comparison to make between this game and the Lord's Test between these sides last year, when England rejected the chance to pursue a target of 273 in 70 overs.

On one hand, this England team that chased down 299 in 70 overs with 20 to spare would undoubtedly have also gone for that particular target.

The evidence of a changed mindset is pretty clear for all to see. But it's not a like-for-like comparison, either.

For one thing Lord's is Lord's and Trent Bridge is Trent Bridge. We've already touched upon a big reason why that makes a difference. There's also the fact New Zealand declared to set England that target; this is important.

This is telling you that in those conditions they didn't think an (admittedly more conservative) England team could chase that target. New Zealand were not about to declare and set England 300 in 70 overs here, they wanted as many runs and as much time taken out as they could get.

Runs in this Test had been scored, consistently, at four an over without a hint of time pressure. England's pursuit of their target ultimately was by far the fastest innings of the match - and how - but it never actually needed to be.

The match run-rate at Lord's was around three an over; a chase of around four an over there was a completely different task. But yeah, it's still one that Stokes and McCullum would have pursued differently to Root and Silverwood.

Final day freebie

Having had a churlish pop at Trent Bridge for the shape of their ground it's only right to end on a celebration of the entertainment they hosted and the part they played in it.

The inspired decision to let the crowd in for free on what would ultimately become one of the great days of Test cricket in this country cannot be praised highly enough.

Clearly, they couldn't have known quite how good it was going to be, but it was always going to be decent.

It was never going to be a short day's play and it was never going to be one where anyone would feel robbed if they'd spent 20 quid on the privilege.

Yet by making it free, how many brand new supporters did Trent Bridge bring in to be hooked by this glorious nonsense of a game that also we must point out isn't always quite like this? Anecdotally, the answer is at least "some".

Test Match Special's Phil Tufnell spent some time with the crowd and spoke to people attending for the first time or returning after years away.

Over the last couple of Covid-afflicted years we've heard a lot of talk from sports clubs and organisations about how important fans are and how it means nothing without them.

But it's been rare to see that talk matched by word and deed. Trent Bridge walked the walk and deservedly got luckier than they could possibly have dared to dream.

Read more: Stuart Broad praises Brendon McCullum after he urged England players to 'run towards the danger'

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