Bazball – A New Way To Play That’s Gripping Cricket

Cricket’s just got a great deal more exciting – thanks to the England national Test team introducing Bazball.

Bazball is a mindset instilled in the England red ball team by captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon ‘Baz’ McCullum in May 2022.

Bazball is the holistic approach the team applies to playing a game, from training through to batting, bowling and taking the field.

It’s not so much that they have changed tactics but about the positivity they project during the game.

Baz is McCullum’s long-standing nickname. As a New Zealand Test cricket player, he was well-known for his attacking and aggressive style at the wicket.

Channelled Aggression

He and Stokes have channelled the aggression and techniques learned in one-day cricket and taken the play to the bigger stage, the five-day international game.

And they have accomplished the change with some success.

When Stokes and McCullum took over, the England team was in disarray. Former captain Joe Root was an emotional wreck after leading the team through the COVID-19 lockdown and returning some dismal results.

The red ball team took on the style of the white ball T20 test team and transformed from a set of mediocre players into a group of world-beaters almost overnight. Fans and players have praised the new strategy as more entertaining than anything that has gone before in 150 years of Test cricket.

So what’s the secret of Bazball?

How Bazball impacts time

It’s got to be time. Traditional five-day games are slow and often boring as batsmen dig in for a day or more to make a big score. The tactics are often more about not losing rather than winning.

Bazball shrinks that time for opponents as England has injected pace into everything they do.

For instance, instead of standing back and waiting for the bowler to deliver a ball, they can score off, England’s batsmen attack the wicket. They do so by distracting the bowler, who has to watch their feet and hands to figure out how they will hit the ball.

Loose balls are punished either by standing still and ramping the ball over the heads of fielders or by running down the wicket to strike a boundary.

The result is England is exploiting the confusion by driving home the advantage by picking off runs as if the test were a one-day limited over match. Once they have the advantage, the England players concentrate on winning the game.

The Principles of Bazball

Stokes says Bazball was top of the agenda for his first meeting with McCullum.

He explains Bazball is about playing without fear with a hunger for winning.

Bazball has seven principles pushed by coaches:

  • Less dwelling on the past
  • No negativity
  • A win-at-all-costs attitude
  • No fear of losing
  • Praise for even the smallest actions
  • Simple massaging
  • Giving players the freedom to play

The Chase Is On

Bazball showed almost instant results for the England five-day Test team.

The playbook for most teams in five-day cricket is about setting scores rather than chasing a win. Stokes reversed the orthodoxy by winning four Tests in a row – three against 2021 World Test Championship finalists New Zealand and the other against prolific India.

Stokes followed the T20 strategy rather than the accepted approach to a five-day game.

Test records have tumbled since the switch of tactics.

England is scoring more runs than before at a faster rate and continues to bamboozle opponents.

Expect The Unexpected

Root, for instance, plays more unexpected reverse shots and even swaps his batting stance from left to right and back again during an inning.

Stokes will declare at odd times during a match – twice he has set a new record for early times for declarations.

Stokes declared after 78 overs in the opening innings of the first match of the Ashes 2023 to bowl at the Australian batsman for four overs on the first day. It was the earliest first-innings declaration in Ashes. This time the move did not pay off – Australia won by a few runs with two wickets in hand.

Bazball intends to confuse opponents and exploit the chaos by always attacking with purpose, not blindly. Stokes even says he will risk defeat if the tactics give England a better chance of winning. His tactics include constantly changing fielders and bowlers so batsmen cannot relax.

And then there’s the nighthawk. Forever Test teams have sent in a nightwatchman if a wicket tumbles at the end of the day. HIs job is to see out the remaining balls without the further loss of a recognised batsman.

The Nighthawk Swoops

Bazball has done away with nightwatchmen in favour of nighthawks – a top-class batsman like Stuart Broad stepping in to hammer tired bowlers waiting to rest after the final over.

What does the rest of the world think about Bazball?

Generally, world cricket administrators feel Bazball has revitalised the waning five-day game.

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting said: “So far, it has been unbelievable, and it has reinvigorated Test match cricket again.

Bazball has plenty of critics in the game, but whether this fresh, positive approach is here to stay and can be replicated by more Test teams remains to be seen.

Bazball FAQ

What is Bazball?

Bazball is a faster, more aggressive, and positive way to play five-day Test cricket with tactics and mindsets lifted from T20 and other one-day cricket.

What are red and white ball cricket?

Five-day international Test cricket is played with a red ball, while one-day Tests which often play on past nightfall are played with a white ball so the ball can be seen more easily.

What is T20 cricket?

The T20 format is a one-day cricket game in which both sides play 20 overs.

Is it only England playing Bazball?

Only England plays Bazball, but Australia have a similar strategy called Ronball in honour of their coach Andrew McDonald, who has a shock of red hair like the McDonald’s burger character Ronald McDonald.

What is Test cricket?

Test cricket is played between teams with full membership of the International Cricket Council (ICC), the sport’s governing body. The term ‘Test’ for matches between member countries was coined in the late 19th century and refers to the match-testing teams’ skills with the bat and ball.

Is it only England playing Bazball?

Only England plays Bazball, but Australia has a similar strategy called Ronball in honour of their coach Andrew McDonald, who has a shock of red hair like the McDonald’s burger character Ronald McDonald.

Who is Ben Stokes?

Ben Stokes is a vibrant and exciting all-round cricketer who can devastate opponents with the bat and ball. He plays his county cricket for Durham. Stokes is the current England captain and one of the keen exponents of Bazball.

Who is Brendon ‘Baz’ McCullum?

Baz McCullum is the head coach of the England five-day Test team and is credited alongside Ben Stokes as the innovator of Bazball.

Why don’t rival teams play Bazball?

Other international teams do not play Bazball because their style of play is ingrained in the team. England has a predominantly young five-day Test team who have all played T20 and the one-day game, so they can lift the positives from one format and apply them to another.

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Photo Credit

Wikipedia – By Chubby Chandru – Dharma Chandru Cric Ph (5), CC BY 2.0