Coach McCullum responds forcefully to Nasser Hussain’s claim that England “didn’t need Bazball to beat Australia” in 2001.
The first Ashes Test between England and Australia, which Australia won by a slim margin of two wickets at Edgbaston, was an intriguing contest between the World Test Champions and the talented players they have in their ranks and England’s new brand of attacking, innovative Test cricket. Ben Stokes’s leadership and experimentation forced a result on a flat pitch with little to offer the bowlers and rain cutting short nearly a full day’s worth of play. This result was very nearly in favour of England, but visiting captain Pat Cummins was able to reverse it in the fourth innings thanks to his consistency and skill with the bat.
Since Brendon McCullum was hired as the team’s coach, England has won 11 of the 15 Test matches, demonstrating the success of their “Bazball” style. Since Joe Root was relieved of his captaincy responsibilities and allowed to excel with the bat, England has appeared to be a stronger team. Players like Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, and newcomer Harry Brook have also been given the freedom to play their shots and take advantage of opportunities as they have arisen. They have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with going into the next WTC cycle with to significant Test victories over opposition like India and South Africa.
There have been concerns made about Bazball’s ability to become a distraction from cricket play that seeks to produce a favourable outcome and about its potential to be a dangerous course of action in circumstances where winning is required over all other considerations. Nasser Hussain, a former captain turned commentator, disputed Stokes’ claims that he wanted to entertain and revitalise the spirit of Test cricket in England and reminded Stokes that winning was his first priority as the Test team’s captain.
Keep in mind that since 2001, we have defeated Australia in England by playing the traditional manner. ‘Bazball’ wasn’t necessary for us to defeat Australia,’ Hussain claimed. After Australia having successfully defended the Ashes during the 1990s and the early 2000s, England eventually won the illustrious 2005 series to claim the urn, marking their first series triumph over their opponents in over 20 years. Since the historic 4-1 thrashing in 2001, they haven’t lost a home series to Australia, but they have only been able to win 5 of their past 26 Test matches since the thrashing in Australia in 2014.
“If you recall, England also suffered a defeat in New Zealand. The fact that they lost here after losing in Ireland is understandable, but there were still two cricket matches they might have and should have won. At Basin Reserve in February, England lost to New Zealand by one run after imposing the follow-on; this Test is regarded as an all-timer, but England would undoubtedly be dissatisfied with it given it was just the fourth time a team lost after enforcing a follow-on.
Hussain disagreed with the mindset that guided the choices taken in this Test match and England’s dedication to Bazball, but the Kiwi defended the tactics employed in the Test match personally. “The execution of how we wanted to play throughout was excellent. The England coach stated, “A few things didn’t quite go our way at times, but that’s the nature of the game. The fourth innings target made an early declaration on day one risky, but it also provided England the best opportunity of victory rather than letting the game stalemate into a draw. McCullum and Stokes evidently believed that the risk was worthwhile, even if the outcome wasn’t favourable.