Are England changing the future of Test cricket?
As the sun set over the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium, Naseem Shah was trapped lbw by Jack Leach as England completed a remarkable last gasp victory.
England had taken the final five Pakistan wickets for just nine runs, with James Anderson and Ollie Robinson taking four apiece. However, they were both overshadowed by the declaration England captain Ben Stokes had made the day before.
England were 264-7 at tea on day 4, a lead of 343. No one was expecting the declaration that followed.
And this was with good reason, on a pitch as flat as this one a target of 343 seemed chaseable, perhaps even making Pakistan favourites for the win.
England had broken the age-old unwritten rule of Test cricket, make sure you can’t lose before you go for the win.
This is a perfect example of England’s aggressive style of play, coined as ‘Bazball’ by fans and some in the media, named after England head coach Brendon ‘Baz’ McCullum.
‘Bazball’ has caught the imagination of England fans since McCullum was appointed in May of this year and has seen a huge upturn in form. England have won seven out of eight games McCullum has taken charge of, compared to just one of their previous 17.
And some believe that this ultra-aggressive style of play is changing test cricket, and for the better. Australian legend Mark Waugh agrees:
However, there have been doubters of ‘Bazball’. South Africa captain Dean Elgar said the style had “no longevity” in test cricket before the series between England and South Africa in the summer, England went on to win that series 2-1.
If England can continue to prove the doubter wrong, other teams will be forced to evaluate how they play test cricket and come up with a counter to ‘Bazball’. This could mean fighting fire with fire and countering England’s style by playing more aggressively themselves, potentially changing how Test cricket is played long into the future.