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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Dean Wilson

England seal Pakistan whitewash after Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum rejuvenation

England's Test rockstars played their sweetest tune in their final match to complete an historic 3-0 whitewash over Pakistan as they continue to change the face of the game.

How fitting that Ben Stokes was there at the end when Ben Duckett cut the ball for four through the off side to register an eight wicket win - the ninth of an incredible year - in classic Bazball style. It brought an end to a sensational first tour to Pakistan in 17 years and will have left fans scratching their heads at just how much the game has changed since England were last here. But this change has not been gradual.

It has come in a mad rush over the course of eight high octane months, with the methods and mayhem set to continue for a long time to come. Duckett’s 82 not out and Stokes’ 35 not out brought about a lively finish to proceedings in just 38 minutes on day four, but after the most transformative year in English Test cricket in living memory what else did we expect.

From the moment Stokes was appointed England captain and told us of his plans to push the team into a new era of positivity and confidence he has stayed steadfastly true to his word. In fact the only thing he might be guilty of is taking it even further and making it more dramatically thrilling than anyone could have imagined.

At that stage he didn’t know that Brendon McCullum would be the coach he would be working with, but the alchemy of the pair together has been like the addition of nitrous oxide to any fast and furious drag race and the effect has been a lot of winning. Nine wins out of ten now makes this England’s second most successful calendar year of cricket behind only 2004 when they won 11 matches out of 13.

That year was the precursor to a memorable 2005 when England regained the Ashes for the first time in an age, and it is fair to say that the portents look rather good for something similar next summer now too. It is worth remembering that 2004 began with a tour to West Indies where England won for the first time in 36 years, and when the side went there in March this year, they lost yet again to bring an end to the Joe Root era.

And while Root had given everything to the job and enjoyed lots of successful moments along the way, his time was up with the team utterly devoid of any confidence, rudderless without a coach, and happy to leave their two best bowlers behind at home in a bizarre act of self sabotage.

England celebrate a historic 3-0 series whitewash over Pakistan (Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

Coming off the back of another horror tour to Australia, England’s Test setup was a mess and in desperate need of a saviour or two. Stokes had already been performing the role as a player, but it was hard to know exactly how he would go as a captain, but he has not only lifted the team from their deathbed, he has got them doing a dance recital for the rest of the ward.

Most of the players have remained, ensuring a stable core of proven quality in the shape of Root, Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, and they have been joined by the very best talent waiting for their chance such as Harry Brook and Rehan Ahmed.

But perhaps the greatest shift has been with the players who have had a taste of Test cricket, but might not have been making the most of their ability with uncertainty over their roles and whether they are good enough. Stokes has stripped this all back, and made everything so clear, so simple, and so full of confidence that they have got no choice but to believe they are good enough and deliver.

Ben Stokes and Ben Duckett were there at the end for England as they sealed victory in Karachi (Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

Guys like Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Jack Leach and Ben Foakes, have all shone brightly for England throughout this year and played huge parts in their recent success. Stokes and McCullum have created a philosophy and an environment where their skills and abilities are able to thrive without fear of failure and it has been a revelation.

And then after dominating at home, with all the comforts and support that come along with it, the question whether this method would or would not work overseas was met with the most emphatic of answers. Yes it works, yes it remains entertaining and thrilling and fun, and yes it is the blueprint for the English game going forward, and it didn’t need a high performance review to deliver it.

New Zealand is the next assignment in February and then the summer and the Ashes, where one suspects this era will get its sternest test to date. Who else can’t wait?

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