England’s Aggression Is Upending Five-Day Test Cricket – Forbes

England won an all-time great Test (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)
With the explosion of T20 cricket, which is the growth engine of the British bat and ball sport, it’s often been pondered what would happen if a team mimicked playing five-day Test cricket like they do that fast and furious three-hour format.
No one has ever been brave enough before to find out. Sure, there have been some inventive captains like former Australia skipper Michael Clarke, who had a penchant for funky tactics and sporting declarations.
But Clarke seems like a relic compared to England’s revitalized Test team led by the new brains trust of captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum, whose brave approach is redefining the sedate five-day format.
After ‘Bazball’ – a nod to ‘Moneyball’ in an attempt to revolutionize the mentality of the conservative format played in white attire – had been a success in their home summer, the true test – pardon the pun – came in Pakistan, difficult terrain where England had not played since 2005.
The lifeless first Test pitch in Rawalpindi was likely to challenge England’s ultra positive philosophy with a result appearing an impossibility – as Australia found out earlier in the year amid an excruciating draw.
Then something astonishing happened. England, who had fears on match eve of not fielding a team due to a virus sweeping the squad, belted Pakistan and scored almost 1000 runs for the match at nearly seven runs per over.
Ben Stokes captained without fear. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
No team in the format’s 145 years had scored more runs and so quickly through a match. They were essentially in T20 mode as underlined by a run rate which isn’t totally out of place in that format.
It gave England enough time to take 20 wickets, which still seemed unlikely when Pakistan almost reached England’s first innings although they scored at 3.72 runs per over which felt slow but is high for Test standards.
True to their new mindset, Stokes offered a generous declaration which raised eyebrows worldwide. Pakistan required 343 runs in more than a day on a belter of a pitch but the carrot dangled was entirely the point. It gave Pakistan hope, leading to the likelihood of wickets, which is what exactly happened on a dramatic final day as England won just before the close in dramatic circumstances with all fielders around the bat in surreal scenes.
England’s eventual triumph was undeniably one of their best ever. It’s surely one of the most improbable victories conjured. There was no reason for a result on such a benign surface. Only the most audacious captaincy from Stokes – with England willing to risk defeat – was able to ensure such a thrilling match and unforgettable finish.
England had their entire team around the bat. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
It’s hard to know whether this bold and fearless approach will become a template worldwide. One suspects there are still cynics and perhaps playing such a cavalier style with be hard to pull off in more difficult terrain India and Australia – graveyard sites for England over decades. It will be interesting to see if they rein it in if results start going against them.
Whether ‘Bazball’ replicates the three-point revolution in the NBA remains to be seen but it has most certainly rejuvenated England, who just earlier this year were a mediocre Test team and, even worse, unbearable to watch. They were a stodgy, bore of a team in the antithesis of their exciting shorter form teams with England simultaneously holding both World Cups.
Their rejuvenation has been embraced by seemingly every player, who are being backed to the hilt and let loose in very much the mould for a newer generation. They have belief and confidence that is infectious and if success continues then McCullum and Stokes probably will start being headhunted to write self-help books.
England have gone from the most unwatchable team imaginable to compelling viewing. They are compulsory to watch now and you can’t keep your eyes off because England are always up to something.
England celebrated a win for the ages. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)
There is no dawdling which often mires long stretches of matches, where it is not uncommon to see spectators in the terraces snoozing. You can’t blame them most of the time.
England, simply, have lit a fuse under Test cricket, which has a limited number of competitive teams and struggles for popularity in most parts of the cricket world.
The best way to save this traditional form of cricket? Play with reckless abandon like England, who refreshingly care more about entertainment than defeats.


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