The culmination of England’s 3-0 series victory over Pakistan on Tuesday was the latest chapter in a remarkable recovery. This feat was made all the more astonishing when considering the dismal run of red-ball outcomes that preceded the era of ‘Bazball.’
It was remarkable enough in its own right to inflict the first home whitewash suffered by Pakistan in the history of Test cricket, which was accomplished by virtue of an eight-wicket victory in Karachi on Tuesday.
It also gave England their ninth win in 10 matches at this level, with Test world champions New Zealand, India, and South Africa also among the losers, since captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum took command in May. India and South Africa were also among those who were defeated.
Before they joined forces, on the other hand, England had only one victory out of their previous 17 Test matches.
The question now is, how can one account for the unbelievable about-face?
The explanation begins in April, when the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) selected Rob Key, a former England batsman who has a mediocre record in Test cricket, as their new director of cricket. Rob Key has a modest record in Test cricket.
The 43-year-old man, who used to work as a television analyst, has had his judgement proven correct on multiple occasions since then.
McCullum served as captain of New Zealand throughout England’s comeback in 50-over cricket, which culminated in England’s victory in the 2019 World Cup final. McCullum laid the foundation for England’s success.
When Key chose him as a permanent successor as coach for Chris Silverwood, who was fired after England’s 4-0 thrashing in Australia, Key backed him to have a similar impact on the Test team. Chris Silverwood was fired after England’s 4-0 thrashing in Australia.
Joe Root, an accomplished batsman, was left depleted by leading a losing side while playing under stringent Covid restrictions. Star all-rounder Ben Stokes, age 31, had just returned from a short leave for mental health when he replaced close friend Joe Root as England captain.
Many commentators saw that England all-rounders Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff had experienced a decline in their performance while serving as captain of the Test team, and they pointed this out.
However, Key stated that he valued his judgement more than the weight of history, and he said: “I trust in Brendon and Ben Stokes… It is time for all of us to fasten our seatbelts and get ready for the journey.”
And what a trip it has been to this point, with Stokes and McCullum making the most of the upbeat atmosphere brought about by the collapse of the ‘bubble’ life.
In the new setting, players are encouraged to have fun with the game of cricket and not to be afraid of making mistakes.
The English batting strategy has been termed “Bazball” in honour of Brendon McCullum’s nickname, despite the fact that McCullum despises the term. This strategy is predicated on collecting runs quickly, which gives bowlers the opportunity to take the 20 wickets that are necessary to win a test match.
McCullum has come to the realisation that the improvements in run-scoring seen in limited overs cricket, which were on display in England’s recent victory in the Twenty20 World Cup under the guidance of white-ball coach Matthew Mott, can be extended to test cricket.
England became the first team to score 500 runs on the first day of a Test when Zak Crawley, rising stars Harry Brook and Ollie Pope, as well as Ben Duckett, all made hundreds in the Pakistan series opener in Rawalpindi. This was made possible by an expanded range of strokeplay, which was combined with classical shot-making.
The shift in England’s mentality is also shown in Stokes’ willingness to play with the possibility of losing a match in order to achieve victory.
Stokes’ audacious declaration in Rawalpindi, which meant that Pakistan needed 343 to win in four sessions, was rewarded with a victory moments before bad light threatened to halt the match. This left Pakistan requiring 343 to win.
When the 18-year-old leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed became the youngest Test debutant from any country to take five wickets in an innings during the Karachi finale, England’s willingness to defy their traditional conservatism was equally visible. Rehan Ahmed broke the record for taking five wickets in an innings.
Stokes has also demonstrated that he is an adept man-manager. He has revitalised veteran quicks James Anderson and Stuart Broad and has given left-arm spinner Jack Leach a much-needed confidence boost.
Have the English made any adjustments to the test format? Although this may not be the case, former England captain Michael Atherton wrote in The Times on Tuesday that Stokes’ men had won in Pakistan by “playing with more verve and attacking intent than any England team, surely, has ever done.” Atherton made this observation after observing that the current England team’s strategy had been met with scepticism at every turn.
For many, the true litmus test will be the Ashes series that will take place in 2019, which will be hosted at home.