What is Bazball? 5 things to know about the concept that has taken England cricket by storm

Bazball is not just a strategy that England follows but an approach that comes with a mindset that Bairstow best described as "freedom".

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Abishek Goswami
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Bazball | What is Bazball? 5 things to know about the concept that has taken England cricket by storm | Sportz Point

Into the final hour of Day 1 of the first Ashes Test, Joe Root smashed Nathan Lyon for two huge sixes. The former England captain had just reached his 30th Test century which played a pivotal role in the team's recovery against newly-crowned WTC winners Australia in Birmingham to 393 for eight. There was a sense of freedom in his batting. And despite having a tail-end batter in Ollie Robinson at the other end, Root continued his dominance on that flat Edgbaston wicket. England could add more runs to add pressure on Australia but England captain Ben Stokes had other plans. He left the world cricket in sheer disbelief and decided to declare the innings with 10 more overs scheduled for the day. The tactic drew mixed reactions from veteran cricketers. Everyone said that's Bazball - the word that has taken England cricket by storm. But what is Bazball?

Read Also: Most centuries in the Ashes

The Bazball Concept

Origin:

The name was first suggested by ESPNCricinfo journalist Andrew Miller after former New Zealand cricketer Brendon McCullum was appointed as the head coach in May last year. 'Baz' hence comes from the long-standing nickname for McCullum during his playing days, who himself was known for his aggressive brand of cricket.

But Bazball is not just about aggression or is a strategy that England follows. It is an approach that comes with a mindset that probably Jonny Bairstow best described as "freedom".

Faster scoring rates:

One of the scorecards to highlight this aspect is the Rawalpindi Test against Pakistan last December when England scored 506 runs for four wickets on Day 1 of the match with three batters - Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, and Harry Brook. It was the most runs scored by any team on the first day of a match in the history of Test cricket. And the scoring rate of 6.75 was the best ever as well. In fact, since the appointment of McCullum, England's strike rate of 77.06 is the highest during the period. And this fast-paced batting has resulted in batters going for unorthodox shots as well like Root executing the reverse ramp almost in each of his innings.

Aggressive fields and bowling changes: 

Former England captain Michael Atherton highlighted this aspect on Day 2 of the 1st Ashes Test when he was comparing Stokes with his Aussie counterpart in Pat Cummins. He said: "Every field change, every bowling change from Stokes is about how to get a wicket. Every change from Cummins yesterday was about how to stop runs. It's a fundamental shift."

On Saturday, when Stokes dismissed Steve Smith, it was the decisive moment in the match. But it was Travis Head's dismissal that drew more attention. Not for the manner of the dismissal, but for the aggressive captaincy of Stokes, who was willing to leak runs to get that wicket. He used Moeen Ali, who conceded seven boundaries by the batter, to get that wicket. Most skippers would not have gone for that sort of bold decision who had conceded 45 runs in his first six overs. Stokes brought the mid-on and mid-off up to trap Head into attacking Moeen again, but this time he fell into the trap.

Taking draw out of the equation:

The Birmingham Test is not the first instance of Stokes' brave declaration call. At the Oval earlier in February this year, in a Day/Night Test, England declared their first innings in the final hour of Day 1 given that the conditions for bowling are better in that hour. New Zealand eventually went three down at stumps. Atherton had later described it as proof of Stokes' "reputation as a captain unwilling to let the game stagnate or drift".

This aggressive approach has also made England among the best chasing sides. A glimpse of this was seen in Nottingham last year when the team scripted a record run chase against New Zealand. Stokes was later quoted as saying "The message just was run into the fear of what the game was rather than stand still or back away from it…I'll say it quite simply: we were either winning this game or losing it. That was the mentality that we wanted all the batsmen coming in to have…It's obviously paid off. When you have the backing of the coach and captain, it rubs off on the players in a very positive way. So you're not fearing failure. You're just going out and doing what you want to do."

Critics:

Earlier this year, veteran Indian bowler Ravichandran Ashwin criticised Bazball saying that it might not suit all conditions. He explained: "Certain types of wickets when you try and attack every ball, you will falter. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this approach. Sometimes, on the wicket, you need to respect the conditions."

Australia's Steve Smith too questioned the longevity of the approach and whether it is sustainable for green-top tracks with the likes of "Josh Hazlewood, Cummins and Starc are rolling in at you."

England Cricket Team Ben Stokes Test Cricket The Ashes Joe Root Jonny Bairstow Brendon Mccullum