It took just two Test matches against a high-quality bowling attack for the Bazball approach to be blown to smithereens.
Against this quality of attack, with no restrictions on field placements, it’s very difficult, if not downright impossible, to regularly succeed in playing T20 shots. Yes, that’s what the Bazball approach basically is. Play T20 format shots in Test match cricket. There is no Bazball while fielding, so what can you do differently from what you usually do in Test cricket
Yes, if all fielders were kept in the imaginary 30-yard circle with nobody patrolling the boundary, then maybe you could call it Bazball fielding. Mind you, having all 10 fielders inside the circle at the start of the innings has been seen before when, many years ago, the Japanese team, trying to qualify for the Asia Cup, had it pretty much throughout the innings.
They apparently also greeted the incoming batsman with a bow, as is the tradition in Japanese culture. Just for a minute or two, imagine the Aussies greeting the incoming batter with a bow. That would be some sight, wouldn’t it?
To get back to England’s batting approach, it did take the Australians by surprise in the first innings, but they quickly realised that it was a single-dimensional one as batter after batter was trying to either run down the pitch or back away and play horizontal bat shots. The reverse scoop that Joe Root brought out to the first ball of the fourth day’s play in the first Test indicated that England was going to keep playing this way, never mind the situation. That said, the deliveries Root employed the reverse scoop to, would have been top-class deliveries if he had tried to play the conventional way. Even last year, when he reverse-scooped Shardul Thakur for a six, that delivery would not have been easy to play if he hadn’t changed his stance and reversed it.
When it came to the second Test match, the Australians were even better prepared and brought in the quicker Mitchell Starc and all their fast bowlers used the bouncer to good effect, causing the dismissals of most of the batters who looked inept against that tactic. The bouncer, for some strange reason, has gone out of fashion. Yes, with umpires being strict about calling even a bouncer just above the batter’s helmet a wide, the quickies have become chary of using it. Only a ball going way above the batter’s head should be called a wide. When a batter is trying to play the hook shot, not the pull shot, the contact with the ball is going to be just above or around the head of the batter, and if the batter misses them, it’s not called a wide, so why is a delivery of the same height called a wide when the batter ducks or sways away from it?
The decline of West Indies started after the restrictions on bouncers per over were brought into the game. Their quick bowlers were strangled, as apart from England, the new ball hardly moves around anywhere else in the world after the first dozen overs or so. That’s where the restriction on dishing out the short stuff handicapped them. Before that, the umpires were the sole judges of whether it was deliberately intimidatory bowling and would tell the bowler if they thought he was overdoing it.
However, once the definition of the bouncer as a wide, if it went above the head of the batter in his normal stance, came into play, the effect on the quick bowlers was to hardly bowl it. So, now we see batter after batter getting on the front foot, knowing there may be the odd bouncer but nothing much to worry about. That’s why, when the accurate bouncer comes along, they are all at sea. Even in limited-overs cricket, their bowlers have found themselves handicapped by the restriction per over.
Let the umpires decide if the ball was wide and not go strictly by the definition as it stands, for then no fast bowler will want to waste his energy trying to dig the ball into the pitch, because even the best don’t always get it accurately.
It will be interesting to see what the remaining three Test matches bring and if England is going to keep batting in the same ‘couldn’t care’ way or bat as the situation demands.
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