England v South Africa Preview – Bazball, Bazball, Bazball, Bazball, Bazball

As England prepare to play Test cricket in August, perhaps for the last ever time, there is only one word on people’s lips. Coined by Andrew Miller, ‘Bazball’ is used to describe England’s freewheeling attacking style under new coach Brendon ‘Baz’ McCullum which has led to the Test team winning all four matches under his leadership so far.

I don’t personally like the term Bazball but, when both Baz and the entire South African cricket team seem to loathe it, my contrarian side insists that I use it as much as possible. South Africa’s coach, Mark Boucher, has even said that any cricket journalist using the term “has to” have a shot of tequila which he will supply. For free. Surely this demonstrates such a poor understanding of human psychology (particularly amongst the English cricket media) that he isn’t anywhere near qualified to lead an international cricket team?

Whilst I have enjoyed the ride, I’m unconvinced that the England Test team is much better than they were four months ago. Since August 2020, England have won a grand total of 1 match in which Joe Root didn’t score a century, and even then he got 86 not out. The key difference between now and last year is that he has received some support from Jonny Bairstow.

Since the start of 2021, England have scored a total of 21 Test centuries. Joe Root was responsible 11 of them. Of the remaining 10, 4 of them have were achieved by Jonny Bairstow in the past 4 Test matches. The significant improvement in Bairstow’s form seems to be the only real dissimilarity between McCullum and Silverwood’s England teams. Whether McCullum was responsible for that, or simply the lucky beneficiary, remains to be seen.

The conditions in England have also been unusually conducive to batting up until now. Hot, dry weather, Dukes balls which have become relatively lifeless after a few overs. Pitches which have stayed hard and true for a full five days. This is not what you would expect in an English summer and, given the rain forecast through part of this game, seems unlikely to be the case this week. To borrow a phrase from football: But can they do it on a cold, rainy day in St. John’s Wood?

England have not, in my opinion, given themselves their very best chance of winning by picking Zak Crawley as opener again. Crawley averages 26.71 in his 25 Test matches. Twenty five. Christ…

Anyway, that’s less than Dom Sibley (28.94), Joe Denly (29.53), Rory Burns (30.32), Mark Stoneman (27.68), Alex Hales (27.28), Sam Robson (30.54), Nick Compton (27.80) and Michael Carberry (28.75), just going through the list of openers who England have discarded for not scoring enough runs, and who (apart from Burns) all had far fewer chances to demonstrate they deserved their place.

It’s not even like he’s improving year on year. This summer, he has a Test batting average of 17.75 from 4 matches for England this summer, and 24.25 in 8 Championship games. It’s frankly a little odd that Kent are still picking him.

I don’t envy professional/degenerate gamblers like InnoBystander going into this series, because I frankly have no idea what is going to happen. England crushing South Africa and England being crushed by South Africa seem equally likely to me. Both teams have a fragility to them which means things could go very wrong, very quickly.

All that said, having predicted England losing every Test this summer, even the possibility of winning this series seems like a miracle to me. Long live Bazball!

If you have any comments on the game, or anything else, please leave them below!

27 thoughts on “England v South Africa Preview – Bazball, Bazball, Bazball, Bazball, Bazball

  1. Mark Aug 17, 2022 / 11:58 am

    Crawley out for 9 wafting outside off, and gives catch to second slip. Carbon copy of so many of his dismissals. The management believe in his talent but how long can they back him with stats like the ones you quote?

    Question: Is anyone in county cricket scoring runs at such a level as to force their way into the test team as a replacement? I think he will get the whole summer, and then they will asses at end of season. I don’t think he will benefit from going back to county cricket to sort out his issues because he hasn’t been setting county cricket a light either.

    Maybe he is just one of those players who has talent but just can’t reproduce it. Not sure if it’s a mental issue (shot selection) or a technical issue.

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  2. dlpthomas Aug 17, 2022 / 12:08 pm

    I was just thinking Jansen looks to have picked up a yard of pace since I last saw him and he could be a handfull when he gets Root. Like you I am not convinced the team is any better than it was but rather they have players in form (as suggested by Jarod Kimber). We will have a much better idea how good the team is after this series.

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  3. Mark Aug 17, 2022 / 12:36 pm

    I find it rather dispiriting that we may not have Test cricket in August anymore. Is this what English cricket supporters want? Have they been consulted? Of course not… because they are just a cash cow to pay their Sky subscription and then accept what they are given.

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  4. Mark Aug 18, 2022 / 3:41 pm

    Not going very well…..SA are only one wicket down and nearly on parity with England. All the old ghosts have remerged in this match so far. The signs were there in the white ball matches between these teams that SA were not going to be pushovers.

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    • dlpthomas Aug 18, 2022 / 6:47 pm

      England fought back well for a while and I wondered if South Africa were a batsman shirt. But South Africa are scoring quite quickly now and with almost a 100 run lead and 4 wickets in hand, they are in a strong position.

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      • dlpthomas Aug 18, 2022 / 6:50 pm

        South Africa playing Bouch-ball.

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  5. dlpthomas Aug 19, 2022 / 1:30 pm

    Good start to the day with Broad taking a great catch in the first over but all down hill from there. Maharaj taking the first 2 wickets of England’s innings was an unexpected bonus for South Africa. Time to break out the Rain Dance.

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    • dannycricket Aug 19, 2022 / 1:34 pm

      Especially for the MCC chief exec, as it looks like the match might finish in three days.

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      • dlpthomas Aug 19, 2022 / 2:36 pm

        It certainly looks that way. Lets see if Stokes starts slogging.

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      • Mark Aug 19, 2022 / 2:37 pm

        Only another six wickets to fall today and the ECB can write off two days revenue. No wonder they like non stop hit and giggle, and just plain giggles!

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  6. dlpthomas Aug 19, 2022 / 2:43 pm

    Stokes has played 2 reverse sweeps in the first 5 balls he has faced. I don’t think this is attacking cricket. I think its brainless. Have a look, play yourself in and then break out the high risk shots.

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  7. dlpthomas Aug 19, 2022 / 2:50 pm

    Whilt is would annoy me, I wouldn’t be surprised to See Billings replace Foakes for the second test

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    • dlpthomas Aug 19, 2022 / 2:51 pm

      “Whilst it would” – too pissed of to proof read

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      • Mark Aug 19, 2022 / 3:15 pm

        1 poor innings is careless, 2 poor innings is just brain dead! It would be embarrassing to lose by an innings facing 326.

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        • dlpthomas Aug 19, 2022 / 3:51 pm

          And embarrassing it is. What a shambles. (even allowing for how good South Africa’s bowling line up is)

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          • Mark Aug 19, 2022 / 3:55 pm

            Danny called it in his pre match. It’s feast or famine!

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          • dannycricket Aug 19, 2022 / 4:40 pm

            It wasn’t hard, to be fair. I don’t particularly rate the South African batting lineup either, so it could easily go the other way in the next Test.

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  8. Mark Aug 19, 2022 / 4:04 pm

    Saturday at the Lords Test is one of the big days of the sporting summer. They shouldn’t have started it on a Wednesday then!

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  9. Marek Aug 22, 2022 / 9:35 pm

    Even in this day and age, he says coming over a bit Fred Trueman, a quick jaw-hitting-floor emoji at the report that the international window for the Hundred was driven by Sky…to accommodate a different sport. He who pays the piper and all that….

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    • Mark Aug 22, 2022 / 11:23 pm

      I completely agree. It is astonishing the people who laughably call themselves the governing body of cricket so easily sold out the whole sport to an organisation whose priority is football.

      Nothing reveals the contempt the ECB has for the sport they are supposed to be custodians of, and it’s supporters. The ECB has allowed a tv company, who’s priority is football to run their own sport and set the fixture list. The ECB has always claimed they are in a partnership with Sky. No, it’s a complete surrender.

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  10. Marek Aug 22, 2022 / 10:09 pm

    I don’t think England’s poort opener selection stops at Crawley actually.

    Jennings and Sibley for the Lions the week before were in many ways even less logical. Jennings wasn’t a test-quality opener in 2016, he was even less in 2017 and he wasn’t in 2018 (it was arguably worth finding that out, but also worth considering that he was picked–like Sibley, interestingly–essentially on the back of one very good season in a rather up and down career). Recalling 30-year-olds who’ve already been tried twice on the basis that they’ve improved is almost never a good idea–remind me how much Salisbury had improved in Pakistan in 2000 again….

    Sibley was dropped almost exactly a year ago, didn’t play any red-ball cricket over the winter, and is averaging 36.7 this year–which in a bumper year for batters is on the underwhelming side of nothing much. More worryingly, his strike rate in the Championship is still under 40–and THAT’S the figure the selectors should be looking at, because if he can’t score faster than that on good batting pitches at that level then he’s going to have exactly the same problem in tests that he did last time: he’ll get completely becalmed.

    In Tim Wigmore’s article on openers today, there were four other possibles mentioned. It’s telling that two of them are not openers, a third hasn’t opened for several years, and the fourth has done it it so well that he was first dropped down the order and then just dropped by his county as recently as last summer.

    Which makes it a little bemusing to me why two other apparently obvious candidates have hardly been mentioned. One is Sam Robson, who’s quietly been one of the most consistent openers in county cricket in the last few years, and who’s having a quietly competent season…again.

    The other–probably more relevantly for the era of Bazball–is Phil Salt. He doesn’t have a very impressive f-c average, but it’s as good as either Crawley’s or Hameed’s–and his strike rate is much better than almost anyone’s in the county game: if you’re looking for someone to be an inconsistent sporadic matchwinner (thanks Colly!), I would have thought he’s a better bet than Crawley. He has seemed so far, albeit in a different format, to have some head for international cricket. And unlike Harry Brook he is actually an opener by trade–he only isn’t this season because he’s keeping for Lancs…which has the upside that you could save a place on an overseas tour by not needing to take Billings, which will be relevant this winter because no-one quite knows what the pitches will be like and I would have thought they’ll want to take eight bowlers.

    If what Wigmore says is true, it’s also surprising that they didn’t use Duckett as an opener in the Lions game–because several of the same things apply to him as to Salt

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    • Marek Aug 22, 2022 / 10:12 pm

      One more thing on the Collingwood comment about Crawley: number of innings of Crawley’s in tests which, 26 tests into his career, have ACTUALLY been match-winning–zero.

      Set that against an average of barely 20 if you take out his one highest score in almost 50 innings, and that argument starts–like Crawley–not to be an especially winning one.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aug 24, 2022 / 1:09 pm

      It makes it very difficult for management and coaches when there are a lack of obvious performers in county cricket for possible new places in the Test team. You would hope there are some ambitious, talented players in county cricket who want to push for promotion to the national side. Especially when there are underperforming incumbents who have had plenty of chances.

      The lack of county players pulling up trees allows the management to continue with players they believe have talent, even if they never back it up with results. So players stay in the Test team on potential because there is a lack of new potential knocking on the door.

      Like

    • Marek Aug 24, 2022 / 1:22 pm

      I think now it’s got to the point where the alternatives–and there are always SOME alternatives–are a better option than Crawley. Personally I wouldn’t have recalled him for the Ashes, which would have cut out this entire stage but which might have left us wondering “what if…?”

      Since they did, I didn’t mind them persisting with him–through a period of change–until the India game, but this series is too far, especially since he played so poorly in his three Championship games in July.

      I’d be happy for them to try any of Robson again, Duckett as an opener (a much better idea than Brooks as an opener: at least he’s a 3 and he has been an opener in the past) or Salt (who has a better f-c record than Crawley: for heaven’s sake, Crawley averages less than 30 even at f-c level). Actually I’d be happy with Burns for the moment, although I suspect he’s not a long-term answer, but I get the impression his face fits in the current England set-ups (plural!) about as much as Osama bin Laden’s and that you and I have a better chance than he has!

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      • Mark Aug 24, 2022 / 4:30 pm

        Yes I agree. In some ways I think his lack of runs in county cricket has meant his supporters at the ECB have been reluctant to drop him from the Test team, fearing if he goes back to county cricket he may not be seen again.

        That should not be a reason to keep him in the Test team however. He and the management have been fortunate that so little alternatives have pushed their way to the head of the queue. But eventually you have to move on, and try someone else. Otherwise you are essentially playing with ten men match after match.

        At least he has been give a good run. A lot longer than most players. I’m not entirely sure if it’s a technique problem or a mental one. They must think he has talent, but if he can’t get his mental side or concentration right…. it is not much use.

        Unlike other players with talent who struggled at Test level many of them would at least score a large weight of runs when they did go back to county cricket. As yet he has failed to do that.

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  11. Marek Aug 24, 2022 / 12:26 pm

    On a completely different note, is anyone else having problems with Cricinfo’s scorecards since yesterday? The formatting is making them illegible and in the case of f-c games doesn’t include…the score!

    Like

    • Rob Aug 24, 2022 / 3:24 pm

      No problems here on the West Coast – maybe Cricinfo is trialling going back to the days when it was subscription only.?

      Like

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