Root having 'such fun' as Stokes salutes 'pretty special start'

By Sports Desk June 27, 2022

England Test captains past and present saluted a hugely successful start to a new era after New Zealand were on the end of a 3-0 series whitewash.

Joe Root was replaced as skipper by Ben Stokes ahead of the series but maintained a key role against the Black Caps and was named England's player of the series.

He was far from alone in standing out, though, and far from alone in enjoying himself, as England became the first Test team to chase down 250 three times in a single series.

The third win was completed at a canter on day five at Headingley, with Root joined in the middle by the destructive Jonny Bairstow, illustrating a complete shift from what had gone before.

Prior to Root – the world's top-ranked batsman – giving up the captaincy, England had just one win in 17 Tests.

"One of the great things about this series was guys keep getting more and more confident, more and more at ease with how they want to go about things," Root said.

"It's such fun to play in and be part of. For Ben to start as he has under Brendon [McCullum, the new head coach] as well, we're all loving playing it; it's great.

"It's important that we enjoy this series win. It has been a rocky road for the Test team for a little while now, and if you can't enjoy a series like this, then what do you play for?"

Those words would be music to Stokes' ears, with results secondary to the enjoyment of his team, he says.

"For me, when I took over this job, it was more than results; it was about changing the mindset of the lads towards Test cricket, about having fun and enjoying the fact you're out there representing your country, and the results will look after themselves," Stokes said.

"But to say that we have done it so quickly is just unbelievable.

"I can only do so much; I've got to show a huge amount of credit to Brendon and the way that he's came in and influenced this group as well, the backroom staff and everyone else who's played a part in the series as well – it's been absolutely phenomenal."

Stokes described this series as "a pretty special start" and picked out the third Test as his highlight, impressed England did not "come back into our shell" when they were 55-6 in their first innings.

Those bad habits have been forgotten, it seems, and Root was not interested in reflecting on what had gone wrong during his tenure.

"I think we should leave what's happened where it is," he said. "I think we should concentrate on looking at what this team has done over the last few weeks.

"What Ben's done has been brilliant in these three games, and I'm sure he'll have a plan for the next series and this game against India as well.

"As I say, I'm absolutely loving being a part of it all at the moment. Long may it continue."

That India match concludes a series that was started last year with Root at the helm, but Stokes intends to attack it in the same manner England did world Test champions New Zealand.

The new skipper added: "It's obviously completely different opposition and we've still got a series to try to 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."

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