BAZ BALL- The New Era in English Test Cricket.

Author: Arijit
06 Jul 2022 12:57:56
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When Brendon McCullum was appointed as the head coach of England's Test Team, the Three Lions were returning from a forgettable Ashes humiliation. There were questions regarding the style of play and the captaincy acumen of Joe Root, arguably the Best Batsman in Test Cricket currently. Root, who was finding it hard to balance the captaincy along with his batting prowess eventually relinquished the captain's arm band and Ben Stokes stepped in.

The time was ripe and right for launching a new philosophy in English Cricket. And that's when the Baz Ball style of playing cricket happened.

Baz Ball is coined as a term that described the style of play of Brendon McCullum in his playing days. McCullum was probably New Zealand's best attacking batsman of all time who believed in going after the bowlers right from ball 1.

Be it the unbeaten 158* at the 2008 IPL opener or the 54 ball 100 against Pakistan in his Final Test, it was McCullum who let his bat shower heavily on to the bowlers.

Stepping out of the crease against the opposition's finest of bowlers and sending the deliveries to the boundary ropes was not only a playing style but an entire philosophy that transpired a new era of Cricket. And when McCullum was given the charge of England's Test Team, he instilled the same philosophy into his side.

And to facilitate things in a better way, McCullum found a kin in Ben Stokes who believed in the same ideology as that of Brendon McCullum's. Infact Stokes' best Test Innings of his career, (the famous unbeaten 135* against Australia at Headingly) came when he followed a similar ideology of counter attacking the Aussies as he snatched the victory for his side in a famous last wicket run-chase.

Ben Stokes has been known for his fierce on field competitiveness and his batting and bowling prowess makes him an ideal flagbearer of the Baz Ball.

The duo of Stokes and McCullum first came in together for the first time in a 3 match home series against New Zealand, McCullum's and Stokes' birth nation.

It was one of the finest competitive series of recent times where England came from behind in all the matches and chased down targets in the 4th innings. In fact it became one of the signature template of English cricket as they chased targets of 279, 299 and 296 successively on a typical English 4th innings track to script a memorable white wash over the Kiwis.

More than the targets it was the way those targets were achieved described the brand of cricket the English side was playing.

In the first test at Lord's, it was Joe Root's memorable 115 not out that allowed them to chase a steep target of 277 after being bowled out for 141 in the 1st Innings. Along with Root, Ben Stokes too played his part with a score of 54.

The second Test at Nottingham was England's best run chase in Test Cricket where they chased down 299 in 50 overs courtesy Johnny Bairstow's life changing innings of 136 of 92 balls. Ben Stokes too contributed with an unbeaten 75 of 70 balls.

The 3rd Test at Leeds had Bairstow written all over it. From an expressive 162 in the 1st Innings, Bairstow doubled it up with an unbeaten 71 off 44 deliveries as England chased 296 in 54 overs. There were notable contributions from Joe Root (86*) and Ollie Pope (82) too.

The much anticipated 5th Test against India at Edgbaston was England's next assignment. While India dominated 7 of the 13 sessions, it was Bairstow's twin hundreds that set up the game for England. Bairstow who scored a counter-attacking 106 in the 1st innings was at his best in the 2nd innings too when he stayed unbeaten at 114*. He had Joe Root at his company who scored an unbeaten 142* to script an unbeaten 269 runs partnership that saw England chase 378 in 76.4 overs.

After the victory, the confidence in the voice of Ben Stokes was evident as he went on air stating that even chasing 450 would have been achievable.

The duo of Stokes and McCullum has only been 4 Tests old but the brand of cricket the side has displayed clearly indicates the roadmap of the English Test Side in the days to come.

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