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    Written by Jamie Alter

    Era of ‘Bazball’ looms large as England and India resume Test rivalry

    Era of ‘Bazball’ looms large as England and India resume Test rivalry

    Cricket   |   July 1, 2022

    The era of ‘Bazball’ is here, with New Zealand icon Brendon McCullum having made a big impact on English cricket in a matter of weeks.

    Under the tutelage of McCullum and new Test captain Ben Stokes, England looked a team transformed as they defeated New Zealand 3-0 in June and the skipper has stressed that they will aim to continue in the same vein in the rearranged fifth and final Test match versus India in Birmingham, starting on Friday.

    In England last year, after losing the inaugural World Test Championship final to New Zealand, India established a 2-1 lead over the home team before Covid-19 intervened. The final Test was due to be played at Old Trafford, but some nine months later it will be held at Edgbaston where conditions are predicted to be slightly more in favour of the bowlers. But that is the only matter capable of being predicted, such has been the dazzling allure of the new positive style of play introduced by McCullum and the manner in which Stokes and his team-mates have embraced it.

    Having turned a corner under the coaching style of McCullum, England will now seek to extend their aggressive ways against India, who will be to without Rohit Sharma as he continues to recover from Covid. This is a different England side from the one that struggled in 2021 and lost the Ashes 0-4 in Australia, and India will have to recalibrate their plans.

    Jonny Bairstow plundered 394 runs against New Zealand with two centuries, while producing two of the most stunning Test innings you could imagine in the span of two weeks. At Trent Bridge, his 136 off 92 balls sealed a remarkable chase and put England up 2-0 and then at Headingley Bairstow larruped 162 off 147 balls while taking his team from 55/6 to 360.  Joe Root, having relinquished the captaincy, stroked match-winning hundreds in the first two Tests and then hastened the clean sweep with 86*. He could have made it three centuries in a row had Bairstow not finished a chase of 296 with 71*off 44 balls.

    India themselves possess a very fine bowling attack capable of taking 20 wickets, as we witnessed in England last year, but if Root continues his silken run and Bairstow attacks the way he did against New Zealand’s bowlers, the visitors will need to keep their wits about them. England’s opening act is still shaky, as witnessed by the returns of Alex Lees (169 runs in six innings) and Zak Crawley (87 in six) and Ollie Pope is still coming to terms with batting at No 3 even though he made 267 runs at 44.50 against New Zealand. India will sense an opening upfront, but getting Root, Stokes and Bairstow is where the match will be decided.

    Should India win, it will give them their first Test series victory in England since 2007. Under Rahul Dravid’s tutelage, the man who was captain 15 summers ago, they will believe they can do this. This team has beaten several odds overseas, and have the personnel to succeed. The question is: are they prepared for a completely different and dynamic England team?

    TEAM NEWS

    England named their XI for the one-off Test on Thursday, with captain Stokes announcing that James Anderson will return in place of Jamie Overton and Sam Billings keeping his place behind the stumps with first-choice wicketkeeper Ben Foakes sidelined with COVID.

    Anderson, Test cricket’s most successful fast bowler, sat out the third Test versus New Zealand due to concerns over his left ankle, and said this week he was frustrated at not being part of the Headingley match. Anderson’s return means that Overton has to make way after scoring a very fine 97 on debut while reviving England from 55/6 in the company of centurion Bairstow. Left-arm spinner Jack Leach will head into this Test very buoyant, following a ten-wicket haul at Headingley.

    England XI: 1 Zak Crawley, 2 Alex Lees, 3 Ollie Pope, 4 Joe Root, 5 Jonny Bairstow, 6 Ben Stokes (capt), 7 Sam Billings (wk), 8Matthew Potts, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Jack Leach, 11 James Anderson

    The BCCI confirmed on Thursday evening that Rohit was ruled out after testing positive again and that Jasprit Bumrah will lead India, which makes him the first Indian pace bowler to do so since Kapil Dev.

    With KL Rahul ruled out, Mayank Agarwal was flown to England as the backup opener but it remains to be seen whether he slots into the team. There are murmurs that Cheteshwar Pujara, back in the Test squad after piling up 720 runs in eight innings for county side Sussex, could be used as an opener, with Hanuma Vihari getting a further chance to cement the No 3 spot he was given at Pujara’s expense in the home series with Sri Lanka this year.

    It is also foreseeable that India repeat their four-pacer tactic from the 2021 series, which means that Ravindra Jadeja is the likely specialist spinner.

    India likely XI: 1 Mayank Agarwal, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Hanuma Vihari, 6 Rishabh Pant (wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Shardul Thakur, 9 Jasprit Bumrah (capt), 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Mohammed Siraj

    Pitch and conditions

    The last Test match to be played at Edgbaston in June 2021 saw New Zealand beat England by eight wickets, in a match during which 854 runs were scored for the loss of 32 wickets. Traditionally, pacers find good support on the first day of a Birmingham Test before the pitch eases out, as evident by the fact that teams batting last – in the fourth innings – at this venue have won 20 matches. With overcast conditions predicted for a good part of Test, you can expect the captain who wins the toss to opt to field.

    In 21 Tests at Edgbaston, Anderson and Stuart Broad have shared 85 wickets as a pair.

    Prediction

    India, despite not having Rahul and Rohit, have it in them to beat England given their improvement as an overseas team. But given how stunningly England regrouped to beat New Zealand, the challenge has risen significantly. From looking favourites heading into the fifth Test in England in 2021, India now find themselves in front of a unique and unpredictable team. England hold the advantage, and if they manage to stamp the ‘Bazball’ imprint for a fourth Test match in a row, this could easily end up 2-2.

    About the Author


    Written by Jamie Alter

    Jamie Alter is a sports journalist, author, commentator, anchor, actor, and YouTuber who has covered multiple cricket World Cups and other major sporting events while working with ESPNcricinfo, Cricbuzz, Network 18, the Zee Group and as Digital Sports Editor of the Times of India. Follow Jamie on Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.

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