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Bazball and the power of positive thinking




What a difference six weeks can make.

Back in mid-May the English cricket press was still going through its regular bout of self-flagellation following yet another failed Ashes tour. Now the team is setting all kinds of records against high-quality opposition and the UK media are beginning to talk of a new world order.

England have just romped to a target of 378 at around five runs an over to win the Edgbaston Test, and won their last four matches against the last year’s World Test Championship finalists – New Zealand and India – with consecutive final innings chases of over 250.

England are playing a brand of attacking cricket that’s a world away from their usual shackled, cautious approach. Their seamers are continuously seeking wickets rather than banging it in short of a length to keep the run rate down. Their fielding is on the whole vibrant and athletic.

The much-maligned spinner Jack Leach was backed by his skipper and took a ten-wicket haul at Headingly, even being giving use of the new ball in a home Test.

Jonny Bairstow somehow has finally translated his one-day form to the Test arena and is bossing some of the leading bowlers in the world with a studied nonchalance. Joe Root’s looking set to ascend the throne as England’s greatest bat of all time.

It all seems like a long-suffering England fan’s most unlikely fantasy, yet the above statements are true.

How, you may well ask, is this possible? After all, the squad hasn’t changed markedly, and there are still familiar weaknesses at the top of the order and when bowling to the tail.

For one thing, the strategy adopted by their new coach and captain, Brendan McCullum and Ben Stokes – labelled “Bazball” – takes the decidedly un-English step of throwing caution to the winds, demanding that their batters display no fear and their bowlers prowl for wickets.

Jonathan Bairstow of England celebrates scoring a century during day three of the Fourth Test Match in the Ashes series between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 07, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

They reinstated the old firm of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad and told them to pitch the ball up.

They stuck with struggling openers in Alex Lees and Zak Crawley and were rewarded as they led the most recent chase with a century stand in rare style, flaying a world-class attack around the park.

Ben Stokes himself looks an inspirational leader and the whole team, for the moment at least, have bought into a wholly new mindset in Test cricket.

Can it last?

Cricket is a game mainly played in the mind, they say, so perhaps the mindset and momentum can be maintained and they can become world-beaters. Or perhaps they’ll go down in a screaming heap on their next overseas assignment and all the old recriminations will start again.

It seems counter-intuitive to suggest that all that was needed was an attitude adjustment and a new ethos. Can it really be that simple?

For the time being England’s gung-ho approach seems to be working. It will be fascinating to see how that pans out for them in the long term.





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