When a team plays a brand of cricket as aggressively as England does, there is no room to take a step backward when it goes wrong. Instead, the team’s think tank, namely Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes, double down on their approach and insist that their all-out attack philosophy will serve them well in the long run.
This, at least, was the rhetoric coming out of England’s camp after ‘Bazball’, the name given to England’s explosive style, was blown apart inside three days against South Africa at Lord’s. Admittedly, it was the first time that this attacking strategy has failed them but then again, when a team gets as comprehensively beaten as England did, the level of scrutiny will always be more intense. In addition to that, there was a suspicion that if this style was put under the strain of a high-quality bowling attack, it would ultimately collapse. As we now know, collapse it did spectacularly at the Home of Cricket courtesy of South Africa’s quartet of quicks.
Rabada x Nortje x Jansen x Ngidi 🔥— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) August 25, 2022
How will England fair against South Africa's '𝗙𝗮𝗯 𝗙𝗼𝘂𝗿'? Watch the second Test LIVE on Sky Sports Cricket and Main Event from 10am. 🏴🇿🇦 pic.twitter.com/OOv9iw8yCm
With this being the case, there’s strong evidence to suggest that Bazball is more one-dimensional than it is revolutionary.
What is the role of the bowlers in Bazball?
To start with, this style of ceaseless attacking doesn’t have an identity when England bowl. Put another way, it is a philosophy that is based on what the batsman can do rather than what the bowlers can offer. Now, if we were to take into consideration the adage that batsmen entertain the crowds whilst bowlers win you games, we would see that England is neglecting the most crucial factor when it comes to winning Test matches. Essentially, England doesn’t have the same intensity when they bowl and look short of options which suggests that this is a top-heavy philosophy lacking in moderation.
It was expert cricket scribe Tim Wigmore of the Telegraph who, following England’s crushing defeat to South Africa, wrote that Bazball had met its kryptonite which came in the form of the Proteas’ attack and a swinging Duke ball. It’s hard to argue with that summary given that this swashbuckling stroke play is not sustainable against an elite attack that can move the ball both ways. It may work for a few overs and provide the crowd with some thrilling entrainment, but ultimately, it won’t last with it only a matter of time before the inevitable happens and a wicket falls.
The Australians will be licking their lips
It should be pointed out that England won’t come up against an attack of the KFC Proteas quality all the time and may be able to win by playing the Bazball way against lower ranked nations. However, when they do, as they will in 2023 against Australia who is the favorites as of the 25h of August to win the Ashes in the latest cricket betting at a price of evens, then the house of cards will fall. You only need to cast your mind back to early 2022 when Australia won the Ashes to remember how skilled and versatile their bowling lineup was to better appreciate the size of the task at hand for England. Needless to say, this challenge won’t deter England from playing in this new barnstorming manner as long as McCullum is still the coach and Stokes the captain by the time the Ashes begin in 2023.
In McCullum’s defense, he, in particular, has rubbished the idea of the term Bazball and has tried to steer clear of giving his preferred playing style a name. The England coach is all too aware of how quickly the tabloids can turn on this approach so wisely, he’s done everything he can to downplay it.
The courage of the hierarchies convictions will eventually cost them
The fact remains, however, and that is McCullum and Stokes have an unwavering commitment to this new era they have introduced and will only accept one brand of cricket from their team.
Whilst the belief in their philosophy is commendable, it will also be the undoing of their leadership as this evidence indicates that Bazball doesn’t offer England enough in terms of a well-balanced style that incorporates the strengths of both bat and ball.