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Can ‘Bazball’ roll England to the Ashes?

Australia players celebrate
Australia players celebrate
©Reuters
 

It was clear at the start of 2022 that England needed to do something in order to reverse their fortunes in red-ball cricket, with Test match action in danger of becoming an afterthought for a nation that had invested so much time and energy in becoming title challengers across shorter formats of the game.

Collective focus had been allowed to drift to the point that running repairs were no longer enough to prevent a house from falling in on itself. Foundations were crumbling and the walls were creaking.

White-ball endeavours may have become flavour of the month, leaving five-day action trailing in its brightly coloured wake, but the history and prestige of Test cricket dictate that it should always be taken seriously.

Rivalry

What would the sport be without the Ashes, with attention preparing to turn in that direction again during the summer of 2023 as the hosts sit at 11/10 in cricket betting to prevail against touring raiders from Australia?

By the time the doors swing open at Edgbaston on June 16, England will hope to have successfully completed a dig out of a rather large rut. That process began almost immediately after notable batons changed hands on and off the field.

Chris Silverwood decided that he was no longer the man to oversee that process, while Joe Root determined that shouldering the responsibility of being both chief run scorer and national team captain was too big a burden for one man to carry.

He, unlike a departing coach, was not looking to bid farewell to the England set-up, with a changing of the guard on the skipper front intended to get everybody singing from the same hymn sheet once more. Full voice was found much quicker than anybody could have imagined.

Having looked lifeless and alarmingly short on inspiration for longer than many cared to remember, a swagger was returned to demoralised ranks once new voices began to sing loud and clear. If mixed messages had been responsible for slipping into reverse, there was now one very clear way forward.

Brendon McCullum has only ever had one gear, and that is full throttle. To expect an England side working under his tutelage to be shaped in anything but his image was always going to be missing the mark by quite some distance.

Once Ben Stoke is added to the mix as Test captain, then you have a recipe for excitement. That may not always equate to success, with two all-or-nothing characters calling the shots, but there can no longer be any accusations of throwing in the towel.

Mastermind

That was clear from the moment that McCullum helped to mastermind a series whitewash of his fellow New Zealanders, with England showing that no target would ever be out of reach as they prepared to race hard with numerous one-day specialists within their ranks. India were also swatted aside on home soil, as were South Africa, with momentum suddenly built out of nowhere.

There is, of course, a lot to be said for honeymoon periods, with change often delivering an upturn in results across any sport, but ‘Bazball’ is now in full swing and very much on a roll. The question is, will that continue through to a meeting with old adversaries when a famous urn comes up for grabs once more?