The England cricket team have ushered in a new era of Test cricket under coach Brendon McCullum, with the Kiwi’s Bazball philosophy seemingly transforming the way the longest format of the game is played.
McCullum, who took over as England Test coach in May 2022, didn’t take long to instill his attacking mentality, a trait evident in his batting during his playing days, to a team which had registered just one win in 17 Tests before his arrival.
England’s first assignment under Brendon McCullum was New Zealand, the reigning World Test Championship title holders.
England, under McCullum’s guidance, won the series 3-0 but what was more important is the way they won the games.
Instead of relying on scoring heavily in the first innings and then playing conservatively in the second to meet the needs of the situation, a ploy commonly used by many teams in Test cricket, the English team played a fiery brand of cricket to keep the Kiwi bowlers under pressure throughout the matches.
To reiterate, England chased down 277, 299 and 296 in less than 80 overs to register their three wins.
Since then, fans and pundits alike have started to use the term ‘Bazball’ to describe England’s playing style under McCullum and it has only gained momentum after the rescheduled fifth Test between England and India at Edgbaston.
Let’s understand what Bazball means.
What is Bazball in cricket?
‘Bazball’ essentially means an aggressive approach towards scoring quick runs, even in Test cricket - a format which is traditionally much slower than its limited overs counterparts like ODIs and T20s and sees batters take a much more conservative approach.
The term Bazball was coined by cricket author Andrew Miller during the 2022 English cricket season after this new fearless brand of cricket by the English cricket team came into the limelight.
The philosophy draws heavily from Brendon McCullum’s batting style during his successful Test career for New Zealand. Even when his team seemed under pressure, McCullum sought to turn the pressure back on the opponents by going on the offensive.
Similarly, the Bazball way of scoring runs sees batters take an aggressive approach, even during the middle overs, and keep the pressure on the opposing bowlers.
The underlying message in Bazball cricket is to win at all cost. With Test cricket often ridiculed for being boring and a lengthy affair, McCullum’s England has taken it upon themselves to play a brand of cricket that is not just attacking but also entertaining.
In short, a few of the major components of Bazball cricket are that it is confusion-less cricket where the intent of attacking batting at all times, albeit not blindly, takes precedence.
This brand of cricket has worked wonders for England who are now known for their attacking and counter-attacking brand of Test cricket. Since England is now regarded as Test cricket's biggest entertainer, Bazball cricket seems here to stay and entertain audiences for years to come.
First applications of Bazball in England cricket
The first instance of Bazball in England cricket came up in the first England vs New Zealand Test.
Chasing a target of 277 and losing the top four batters for 69 runs, Joe Root went on the offensive with the bat as he notched an unbeaten 115 with 12 boundaries to his name. New captain Ben Stokes (90) and Ben Foakes (120*) supported Root from the other end to ensure Brendon McCullum’s first win as England Test coach.
The English team would take things up a notch in the second Test, a fixture that went down in record books as the highest match aggregate (1,675 runs) for a meeting between England and New Zealand.
While New Zealand took 145.3 overs to post a first innings total of 553, England hit 539 in 128.2 overs at a run rate of 4.20. Upon being set a target of 299 to chase, the hosts rode on Jonny Bairstow’s emphatic 136-run knock - including a 77-ball hundred - to reach the target in just 50 overs.
In the third and final Test, Bairstow would be the star of the show again. Coming in to bat when England were reeling at 17/3 in seven overs, Bairstow hit a 157-ball 162 laced with a whopping 24 boundaries. His efforts helped England post a first innings score of 360 in just 60 overs at a run rate of 5.37.
When it came down to chasing 296, England rode on half-centuries from Ollie Pope (82) and Joe Root (86 not out) to seal a convincing seven-wicket victory in just 54.2 overs.
Although Bazball in England cricket is just four games old, the results have justified the means and the philosophy may just change Test cricket as we know it.
Bazball cricket has also made it possible to chase down huge fourth innings targets in no time, which was previously unheard of. This no-fear brand of cricket by England has seen them chase down fourth innings targets of 296 against New Zealand and 378 against India - their highest in Test history - in 77 overs.
Bazball stats: Brendon McCullum's record as England coach
Under Brendon McCullum, the England cricket team has won 13 of the 18 matches in Test cricket. They have lost just four Tests while one match ended in a draw. Brendon McCullum has a winning percentage of 72.22 as England head coach.
Author: William Paul
Featured photo: AFP / ADRIAN DENNIS