After a dreadful winter, ‘BazBall’ has revitalised English test match cricket

When England lost 1-0 to West Indies in March, Joe Root stepped down as captain, and both the head coach and director of cricket left their roles. No one could have foreseen the revival we saw last month.

Ben Stokes, England’s eye-catching all-rounder, has taken the captaincy and teamed up with former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum to form an exciting dynamic which has rejuvenated English cricket.

The curtains had fallen on Joe Root’s tenure as captain after another loss in the West Indies, giving England a record of only one win in 17 test matches. Despite Root batting tremendously throughout 2021 and into this year, it was time for a change in leadership, and no one else came close to Stokes taking the role.

Rob Key was named the new director of English Cricket in April. He quickly appointed McCullum as Head Coach and named Stokes as captain. When asked about appointing the duo, Key told England fans to “strap in and enjoy the ride.” Well, the first three games under the new system have certainly been some of the most entertaining test matches ever.

From a 4-0 whitewash down under over the winter and not managing to win a game in the Caribbean, England completed an impressive turnaround beating New Zealand 3-0, chasing down 277, 299, and 296 with all three taking place in the fourth innings.

The most impressive was the second at Trent Bridge.

After conceding 553 runs in the first innings, England fought back to reach 539, with Ollie Pope scoring 145, and 176 for Joe Root. England’s bowlers backed up their batters by bowling New Zealand out for 284, meaning 299 runs were needed to win.

However, a shaky start from England’s top order left England at 96-4, leaving England to require 206 more runs with 47 overs left. What proceeded was one of the most remarkable pieces of batting from Jonny Bairstow.

Scoring at such a rate, Bairstow almost scored England’s fastest ever century. Together Bairstow and Stokes scored 179 in just 20 overs before Bairstow was eventually dismissed for 136 off 92. Thankfully, all the hard work had been done by Bairstow, allowing Stokes, and Ben Foakes to finish the game and seal a great victory for England.

The term “BazBall” has been used to describe this new entertaining approach to test cricket. It epitomises the fearless and tenacious approach McCullum has instilled into the team.

“BazBall” breaks away from the typical Test Cricket mould of a slow and steady methodology. This is obvious when looking at the rate at which England scored their runs in their 3-0 victory over New Zealand in June. Their run rate across the three matches was 4.54, making it the second highest by any team in a three or more series.

Who knows if this will carry on, but what is for sure, it makes for excellent viewing. Perhaps the new style of cricket could find its way to the UEA cricket team. With the tantalising run-scoring being seen on TV, we could see our own Jonny Bairstow emerge next summer.

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Drew Murphy

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August 2022
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