Cricket health check for 2023: Which stars are waning, who is on the … – The Telegraph

Bazball will face its toughest test when the Ashes get under way next summer – one thing's for certain, it will be one hell of a contest
It’s been an exciting year to be an England cricket fan. From the horror of Hobart, where the side once again meekly capitulated to Australia, to the class of Karachi, where they wrapped up a series sweep in Pakistan, the past 12 months have seen an unlikely, but much-needed, shot in the arm for the national XI and Test cricket as a whole. 
One word has dominated: Bazball. Under Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes England have become box-office and changed the landscape as a result. 
Here’s a look at how it happened and what to expect in 2023. 
The only thing on the wane is playing boring, predictable Test cricket. England were reborn in 2022; a year that will go down as one of the most pivotal in their history. Stokes is racing up the list of great England captains while McCullum has breezed in and created an environment that allows players to thrive. When they left Pakistan after a tiring tour, many said they were looking forward to getting back together in New Zealand in February.
McCullum said he wanted to save Test cricket the day he was appointed Test coach which at the time sounded like a nice little soundbite and fantasy land. How was he going to achieve that with such a poor England team, a side that slunk its way around Australia and the Caribbean?
Well, he lived up to his word showing the importance of clear messaging and courage of convictions. The alchemy with Stokes is a once-in-a-generation blend of two men with the same shared vision. England are batting at a rate never seen before in Test cricket – 4.77 an over since Stokes’s elevation – and Bazball is world cricket’s buzzword.
As Sir Geoffrey Boycott wrote this summer: “If you don’t like Bazball then you don’t like cricket.” Inevitably there will be natural wastage. Broad is coming to the end; Ollie Robinson is now first choice ahead of him. Broad may well pull off one more Ashes hurrah if his bunny David Warner is still clinging on by then. The Oval could be a glorious farewell for Anderson, especially if he is still bowling as well as he is now. Go out on top Jimmy. That is what this great bowler deserves.
Where to start? Every single player advanced and improved – just one in Alex Lees was dropped. Harry Brook already looks better at the same age than Joe Root. Ollie Pope is maturing at No 3 – no longer hesitant and dreading getting out. Ben Duckett is wonderfully self-deprecating, admitting he can only attack not defend. “If I’m looking to survive then to be honest I’m pretty useless,” he says but has matured and fits in with the new dynamic. Root remains the most consistent player of his generation, Jonny Bairstow saved his career in Sydney and enjoyed a barnstormer with five more hundreds. Only a broken leg could stop his runaway train. Rehan Ahmed’s debut was one for the ages. He will be carefully nurtured by McCullum while allowed to further his education in franchise leagues.
Sam Curran is one of the world’s best T20 death bowlers, making him one of the most marketable players in the game. Jofra Archer is on his way back in time for the Ashes. Jos Buttler has transitioned to white-ball captain with a World Cup and one-day coach Matthew Mott was a canny appointment.
Stokes will grow as captain, leadership coming so naturally to him as long as he can keep a lid on his emotions in the Ashes. The only person who can control Ben Stokes is Ben Stokes.
June 16, Edgbaston, Birmingham. Day one of the Ashes series and where better for England to start than in front of a baying Hollies Stand.
Not since 2005 has an Ashes series been more eagerly awaited. England’s win-at-all-costs approach – so Australian it should come with Fosters sponsorship – will hurtle headlong into Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. The Australians are not quite sure how to respond. So far they have mocked, but England will not change. If they are bowled out cheaply in their first innings, they will go harder in the second, and why not. They were losing before playing cautiously so at least go down having fun and trying to entertain.
We will also have a real role reversal at the top. Stokes is the alpha male captain, Cummins the eco campaigner with a social conscience. Australians like to cut the head off the snake – targeting the captain. Bring it on will be Stokes’s response.
England want to hit them with pace too: Archer, Wood and Olly Stone will be rotated to full effect. Lord’s hosts the second Test before Headingley the third and we know what happens there during Ashes series. The only shame is the five Tests are crunched into six weeks ending on July 31 to accommodate The Hundred and white-ball cricket. It must never happen again. The Ashes needs its September curtain call at the Oval, the series building up over a number of weeks to a late summer climax, twisting and turning before the final confrontation.
The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket was commissioned in 2021 by former ECB chairman Ian Watmore in the wake of the Azeem Rafiq allegations. It has heard more than 4,000 pieces of evidence of discrimination in cricket and is due to report in February, the game bracing itself for more negative headlines. Sources are indicating that it is sexism and misogyny that will provide the game with a new crisis to address. There is also a review of dressing room culture in men’s and women’s professional cricket that is close to completion too.
Will Bazball work in Pakistan? Will it work against Australia? Will it work on the moon? The questions will keep being posed. It was answered emphatically in Pakistan and will be this summer too. England to win the Ashes 3-2 (how will they draw unless it rains?) and hit the Australians hard from day one.  
The Aussies have not won in England since 2001 but were streets ahead 12 months ago. Not now. The phoney war argy-bargy will be hotter than ever thanks to Stokes and McCullum, the Aussies will gleefully point out his New Zealand team came up short against them. McCullum doesn’t quite get it yet. “Why do you blokes keep asking about the Ashes,” he said in Pakistan. He will find out. Oh, one last prediction: the counties will still be arguing over the schedule.
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