England's new regime make instant and winning impact

NOTTINGHAM, England, June 14 (Reuters) - Whether England's new leadership of skipper Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum succeed in turning the test side into one of the world's best, one thing is clear from Tuesday's high octane victory over New Zealand -- the journey is going to be fun.

The pair took over the helm of the red ball team in May after a run of one win in 17 tests -- miserable form that had seen the team fall to eighth in the world rankings.

They have won their first two tests playing a brand of exciting, attacking cricket that really should have been no surprise given the new regime's background.

As a player, New Zealander McCullum, like Stokes, was known for his aggressive stroke-play, well suited to the short forms of the game but also effective in test cricket.

In his final test, he scored the game's fastest century, striking 100 runs from 54 balls against Australia at Christchurch.

It was perhaps then no coincidence that in McCullum's second test as England coach Jonny Bairstow scored the fastest ton for England in 120 years.

The Yorkshireman reached the milestone in 77 balls and went on to score a match-winning 136 from 92 balls as England chased down a second innings target of 299 in 50 overs.

"We just looked at it like a one-day game," said Bairstow.

"The pitch was good, the outfield was fast. With the players we have, the brand of cricket we want to play, days like today are very exciting," he added.

"If this is happening now, it's going to be some journey."


It was a performance that was in striking contrast to the way England failed to even attempt to take on a final day target of 270 at Lords a year ago against the same opponents.

That day, England played cautiously for a draw making just 170-3 and leaving former skipper Nasser Hussain leading the criticism of the team for showing "no intent at all" in the face of the challenge.

This time, a batting surface that was still true on the fifth day and the relatively short boundaries and fast outfield played into England's new approach, as Stokes conceded.

"Today was set up absolutely perfectly for the way we want to go about things moving forward. We want to run into the danger rather than back away. That's definitely what we did today," said the all-rounder who was 'junior partner' with Bairstow, making an unbeaten 75 from 70 balls.

Stokes was quick to credit the rest of the team for the victory, particularly opener Alex Lees, having struggled in the recent series against West Indies, whose swift scoring before lunch had set the tone.

Former England skipper Michael Vaughan has no doubt the influence of McCullum and Stokes is already delivering results.

"Bring on this style of cricket. There might be the odd game where it's a bit ropey but as long as they commit to being brave and they know this is the style of cricket of Ben Stokes' captaincy," he said.

"It's amazing how you can change mentality quickly. McCullum deserves a huge amount of credit. He's told them to go out and affect the game when they bat. Be busy. Be positive. Look to score. Watch the way Lees played in the Caribbean to how he played today. He looks a totally different player. Baz McCullum deserves credit."

Reporting by Simon Evans, Editing by Ken Ferris

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