Is ‘Bazball’ a sustainable form of Test cricket?

Bazball is the latest craze to sweep Test cricket after Brendon McCullum’s inspired change of approach has successfully helped England back to winning ways. To the New Zealander’s credit, it has been a stunning turnaround following years of underwhelming performances in the Test arena.

A new Kiwi sweeps clean

In fact, before McCullum was appointed, England had only managed to win one Test out of a possible 17 and had dramatically slipped down the world rankings. It was, in short, time for a wholesale change after England lost to the West Indies in the Caribbean at the beginning of 2022, which is exactly what happened with the 40-year-old Kiwi appointed soon after to take the men’s team forward into a brave new era.

Since then, England have comprehensively beaten New Zealand at home as well as India to ensure that their postponed series from 2021 ended 2-2. Needless to say, the standout feature in this instant revival under McCullum has been the brand of cricket England have played which is incredibly aggressive, and has been topping the headlines of the latest international cricket news websites. Indeed, the English have thrown off all the shackles with willow in hand and have swapped a circumspect scratch around the wicket where Joe Root is the only backbone, for a full-blooded collective assault from ball one. It is, to say the least, absolutely enthralling and has given McCullum’s men the confidence to rewrite the history books, as they did against India when they rather nonchalantly chased down a mammoth 377 to win the game in the fourth innings.

Yes, the results have been instantaneous and have, in some respects, caught the opposition by surprise. At least, you get the sense that New Zealand and India both froze in the oncoming glare of the behemoth that is English Test cricket at the moment. With this being the case, you can perhaps understand why both nations didn’t have an answer for the brand of cricket that England were playing. However, now that the world has had a longer look at Bazball under McCullum, is it really a sustainable form of winning cricket games?

A storm in a teacup?
Indeed, you can’t help but feel that England’s recent opponents lacked the streetwise nature to stop this bullish approach dead in its tracks. Instead, there was a willingness to fight fire with fire which is what McCullum and England want as it nullifies any previously spoken-about game plan in the build-up. Basically, in the blink of an eye, both teams are playing a frantic T20 game albeit in white clothing with all caution thrown to the wind. In many respects, teams are asking for trouble if they try and go toe to toe with this style but should they pause and take a breath whilst surveying what is coming at them, could there be an opportunity to bring Bazball to its knees?

The answer surely has to be yes when you consider how much scope a captain has to outfox England’s belligerent top-order with the new swinging Test ball that behaves differently from the white ball at the start of an innings. Furthermore, with complete control of the field and no restrictions to limit where catching players can be put, there is mounting evidence to suggest that with a bit of thought, Bazball can be nullified.

Intriguingly, there does seem to be growing conjecture around whether England can sustain this furious tempo, especially when they play against the Alinta Energy Australians in the Ashes in 2023. Indeed, as things stand, the Australians are the favorites in the most recent cricket betting odds after being priced at evens, as of the 15h of July, to retain the Ashes despite the contest being held in England. In essence, this price suggests that the jury remains out on this fast and furious style and perhaps it’s prudent to wait a bit longer before predicting that the future will be a bright one.

Fool me once, shame on you

Ultimately, the reason for a wait-and-see approach comes down to how quickly an aggressive brand of cricket can unravel when it comes up against a team that does not get swept up in the emotion of the affair. The challenge for England is to continue to successfully execute this swashbuckling style now that the world has had a bit longer to observe its flaws and weaknesses. It’s worth saying that the door isn’t entirely closed on Bazball eventually failing and this team could be remembered as a great one. But the inescapable truth is that it’s set to get a lot harder with countries now aware of what to expect.