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International Cricket: England in top shape after sealing NZ whitewash

England coasted to a seven-wicket triumph on day five of the third Test against New Zealand on Monday as Ben Stokes' and Brendon McCullum's early time in charge continues to go from strength to strength.

Needing 113 runs from the final day to complete the series in the best fashion possible, England took just over an hour with Yorkshiremen Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow maintaining their stunning form at Headingley.

Play was delayed until just after 13:30 due to overnight rain, but even with less time on their side, the hosts never looked like failing to reach the 296 run mark set by the Black Caps.

The three wins follow a run of just one victory in the previous 17 Tests, including a horror Ashes series in Australia over the winter, but now they can look forward to further examinations with renewed confidence.

India arrive at Edgbaston on Friday for a one-off Test to finish the series off from last summer and Stokes' men will be keen to maintain their upward momentum.

Looking further ahead to the next Ashes, England are 13/8 to win the 2023 series at home, with Australia 5/6 and a draw 11/2.

Confident England stride to success

New eras in sport bring with them their own challenges but, despite New Zealand causing some problems throughout the Test series, England have largely bossed the tourists and can doff their caps at themselves.

There seems to be newly-instilled positivity and a real togetherness in the camp. With what looks like the right blend of youth and experience and a willingness to play front-foot, aggressive, attacking cricket, England have excelled under McCullum's leadership so far.

Stokes, McCullum, and the selectors saw fit to bring back experienced seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad to the fold, while Durham paceman Matty Potts was given a maiden call-up to boost the bowling attack.

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Root confirms England greatness

However, it is at the crease where England have arguably been most impressive during the matches at Lord's, Trent Bridge, and Headingley.

Root, freed from the captaincy burden, was given the Player of the Series award for his impeccable batting - two centuries have helped him get over the 10,00 run mark and it feels like only a matter of time before he breaks Sir Alasdtair Cook's record.

And Bairstow is the form man at the minute after a fabulous series where he averaged just over 78. His England career has been slightly up and down to date, but it is safe to say that he is on an upward curve once more.

At 55-6 in the first innings, England's chance of completing the whitewash looked slim but Bairstow's 162 dragged them back into contention again, just like he did at Trent Bridge, this time, though, with welcome help from debutant Jamie Overton, who managed a brilliant 97.

Bowling attack also has options aplenty

The decision to recall Broad and Anderson was not only down to the fact that they are fabulous players but also down to England not having too many options who are fit and ready to contribute on the Test stage.

Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes, Olly Stone and Ollie Robinson were among those forced to sit out as Matty Potts was the fresh-faced wildcard.

He took four wickets in his first innings and has not look at all overawed by the task at hand.

Spinner Jack Leach was also due some good luck after being forced out of the first Test on day one after tumbling over the boundary and suffering concussion symptoms.

At Headingley, he took 10 wickets in the Test match - no mean feat on a field that usually isn't too receptive to spinners.

When those absentees return to fitness, there will be a selection headache.

New Zealand can take minor positives

Coming to the other side of the world to lose 3-0 will be a bitter pill for Kane Williamson's men to swallow, but they did at least have opportunities to win and were competitive for long periods in all three Tests.

All-rounder Daryl Mitchell was the standout star for the Balck Caps with knocks of 190, 109, and 108 to shout about.

However, he and Tom Blundell were the only members of the top six to average above 30 and that will have to be addressed if they are to regain their previous fine Test form.

Confident England can take India scalp

England have not only played well on the front foot, they have chased targets superbly and shown plenty of grit and resillience throughout.

It is the first time a team has successfully chased down at least 250 runs three times in a series in Test history so England can be proud of their work.

Virat Kohli and co will provide a stern examination as India travel for the fifth and final Test of the series held over from last summer, which starts on Friday, in Birmingham.

A win for England would seal and draw with India 2-1 up overall and they will approach it in fine fettle considering their recent exploits.

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