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IND vs ENG, 2024: Do England need to rethink Bazball when facing a quality opposition like India?

India vs England, 2023-24: Do England need to rethink Bazball when facing a quality opposition like India? Ben Stokes-led England trailing 2-1 in the five-match Test series against India.


India vs England, 2023-24: Ben Stokes-led England is 1-2 down on 5 match series after 3 matches | Walking Wicket (Images_ ©X_Twitter)
India vs England: Stokes-led England is 2-1 down in 5 match series (Images: ©X/Twitter)

In the last few weeks, Bazball has received much criticism after England conceded their 1-0 lead to now trail 2-1 in the five-match Test series against India. The same Bazball that helped England achieve a lot of success under the captain-coach duo of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum has been lambasted for its mindless aggression, disrespecting the conditions and opponents, while following a stubborn brand of cricket. 


Although England may continue to play Bazball in the same fashion in the last two Tests against India, the recent defeats pose questions about whether England need to rethink Bazball considering the conditions available in the Indian subcontinent. 


But first, let’s understand what Bazball is all about

Although England, including coach McCullum, has publicly mentioned that they don’t like the term Bazball, they have rewritten the way Test cricket is played now. They use an attacking style of play, in both batting and bowling. Hence, you see England chasing down tall targets with ease while using attacking field placements to pluck out wickets and make bold declarations to eke out a result. 


But what is also important to note is that Bazball is not just about attacking strokeplay and bowling, but also being fearless, having mental toughness and being aware of situations. In the first Test at Hyderabad, Ollie Pope showed those characters perfectly and shellshocked India with a counter-attacking innings of 196 that had many sweeps, reverse sweeps, scoops, and reverse scoops that took India by surprise. But unfortunately, England could not reprise this style of Bazball in the next two Tests and are now trailing 2-1.



What went wrong for England in the next two Tests?

Bazball went downhill in the next two Tests as England could not adapt to Indian conditions as well as India players did. While Team India played according to the situation of the game, respecting the early moisture and movement off the deck to recover from 33/3 to post a total of 445 in the first inning at Rajkot, England threw away a great start of 224/2 to be bowled out for 319 on the third day morning. 


India won multiple sessions in the Rajkot Test while England played catch-up most of the time. In Indian conditions, playing T20 style of cricket in Test or Bazball consistently would not pay dividends as pitches and conditions deteriorate faster than in SENA countries. Playing at home, India adjusted brilliantly to bat against England in the Rajkot Test. Earlier, in the second Test at Vizag, England ran India close but could snatch a few critical moments of the game that Rohit Sharma and his men did successfully.



India vs England 2023-24_ Top Takeaways from first Test for England _  Walking Wicket (Images_ ©englandcricket_Twitter)
Root averages 12.83 from three tests matches in India (Images: ©englandcricket/Twitter)

Fewer contributions from key batters

England could be forgiven for not picking up 20 wickets as they have an inexperienced spin attack. But their experienced batters such as Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow have struggled to get going. Is the definition of Bazball weighing heavily on them to score runs at a faster pace? It could be a possible reason, considering the way Root has thrown his wicket away consistently by playing atrocious shots such as the reverse scoop to Jasprit Bumrah in the Rajkot Test and giving a charge to Ashwin too early in the Vizag Test. 


Root is a traditional Test batter who has experience playing and scoring tons of runs in Indian conditions, but their penchant for scoring quick runs has seen him lose his wickets even before he is settled. Same for Bairstow who too looks in a hurry to score runs rather than first settling down before taking down the bowling attack. Ollie Pope who stunned India with 196 in the Hyderabad Test has struggled to replicate the same performance as he is too under pressure to score runs quickly.


Here’s how the England batters have fared so far:


Player

Matches

Runs

Average

50s/100s

Joe Root

3

77

12.83

0/0

Jonny Bairstow

3

102

17.00

0/0

Ben Stokes

3

190

31.66

1/0

Ben Foakes

3

109

18.16

0/0

Ben Duckett

3

288

48.00

0/1

Ollie Pope

3

285

47.50

0/1

Zak Crawley

3

226

37.66

2/0



What should England do now from here?

Get their bowling combination right

England have struggled to put the right combination of bowling attack, with the injury to Jack Leach further denting their spin attack. England’s inexperienced spin attack is not helping their cause either. But England tasted success in the first Test at Hyderabad after their spin attack exploited the conditions in the fourth innings. England need to figure out the best bowling unit that can win the match for them.

 

Need to tweak Bazball

England seems to lack Plan B if their Plan A of all-out attack fails. It was noticeable when England collapsed like a pack of cards in their second innings in the Rajkot Test. Also, a fixed-aggressive approach saw them throw away a good start in the first innings at Rajkot. England can take a leaf out of India’s batting approach. One of their batters has dropped anchor, while others have played around. 


In the first innings at Rajkot, Rohit shed his attacking play, and dropped anchor, while Jadeja batted around him. Later, Sarfaraz Khan went after the bowling when Jadeja dropped anchor. In England's case, Root is the best batter to play the anchor role as he is a classical Test batter who can grind out the bowling attack, while other batters can score faster to keep up with the aggressive brand of cricket.


 

Play according to situations

It has been noticed that irrespective of the scorecard, all England batters look to do is attack every ball. Hence, batters such as Root and Bairstow have failed to deliver under pressure as they have looked to hit out of trouble and lost their wickets. The mode of dismissals of Root in the last two Tests has been alarming as he has looked to hit out every ball. Only captain Ben Stokes has shown the maturity to hang around, play on merit and game situations and later, attempt to blow away the attack but with mixed results. 


Hence, England batters need to first stay put at the wicket, take calculated risks, and when the tide is in their favour, unleash the Bazball fury – something Jaiswal did during his double ton in the Rajkot Test. For England, winning sessions should be a priority and not just a passage of play if they want to turn the table on India in the next two Tests. 



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