England smash records with highest Test run chase as Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow heroics stun India

England heroes: Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow embrace after thwarting India in incredible fashion at Edgbaston  (Action Images via Reuters)
England heroes: Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow embrace after thwarting India in incredible fashion at Edgbaston (Action Images via Reuters)

England marched to a remarkable fourth successive victory under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum, with Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow providing a stunning series-levelling win over India before lunch today.

England chased down a target of 378 inside 77 overs and for the loss of just three wickets to break a slew of records: this was England’s highest successful chase in Test history; the highest successful chase in Test history in England; and the highest chase India have ever conceded.

It follows three staggering wins, all chasing, against New Zealand this month. That broke a run of just one win in 17 Test matches dating back to February 2021, and has seen them pull off a remarkable transformation under McCullum and Stokes’s leadership in which they have taken the attacking option at every turn.

Afterwards, Root spoke of the confidence coursing through the team. “The feeling in the dressing room at the moment is that whatever the target, we’ll take it down,” he said.

This has been a peculiar series, which ends drawn 2-2. England were 2-1 down, having lost at Lord’s and the Kia Oval when the series was postponed at a couple of hours’ notice at Old Trafford in September over fears in the India camp about the spread of Covid-19.

Despite a brilliant hundred from Bairstow on day three, England conceded a first-innings deficit of 132 in this rescheduled Test. But they roared back into the game, first through a sharp spell of short-pitched bowling from Stokes yesterday, then an excellent chase.

Alex Lees and Zak Crawley got them cracking with England’s fastest-ever century stand for the opening wicket, then Root and Bairstow put on their latest masterclass after three wickets well for two runs in 16 balls either side of tea. Root and Bairstow steadied things, and returned today requiring just 119 more. They required just 90 more minutes to win the match.

England’s expert chasers are both enjoying a remarkable run of form (AP)
England’s expert chasers are both enjoying a remarkable run of form (AP)

This morning, England took 39 runs from the first six overs, with Bairstow the initial aggressor. Then Root took over, surging to his century, from 136 balls, then opening his shoulders further, launching Shardul Thakur down the ground for four, then reverse-lapping over the slips for six, just as he had against Tim Southee and Neil Wagner before.

Bairstow had to watch on, patiently, and by the time he reached his century (from 138 balls), Root had 135 and England needed just 21 to win. He got there with a scampered single off Ravindra Jadeja, who was bowling a negative line from over the wicket, without threat. Some of India’s tactics were baffling.

An over later, Bairstow flayed three violent fours from Mohammed Siraj, through the offside, down the ground, then through midwicket. It was Root’s reverse-sweep, for four then one, that took England to a victory that levelled a series in which he captained the first four Tests.

Both Root and Bairstow are in simply staggering form. Root, who got to his hundred first, has been in his run glut longer. This was his third Test century of the summer, fourth century of a series that started last year, and fifth century of 2022. The world’s No1-rated batter has 11 since the start of 2021, and 28 in his Test career.

Bairstow’s run is shorter, but perhaps starker. This was his sixth hundred in eight Tests in 2022, and fourth in three Tests. This is the first time he has made twin centuries in a Test, and his first against India. He now has 12 Test hundreds, and has doubled his tally this year.

Root and Bairstow have been England’s kings of the chase this summer. At Lord’s last month, Root’s unbeaten 115 took England to a five-wicket win over New Zealand, chasing 277. In the next Test, Bairstow smashed 136 from 92 balls to secure a win at Trent Bridge, chasing 299. And at Headingley last week, they both made unbeaten half-centuries to chase 296.

Stokes’s joyriders love the thrill of the chase, ignoring conventional wisdom. When he opted to bowl first on Friday, he did not say “we’ll have a bowl”, he said “we fancy chasing”. It borrows a method from Eoin Morgan’s white-ball sides and, with Root and Bairstow in this sort of form, it feels like they could chase anything.