First things first, it wasn’t ‘baseball’ when England chased down 378 in the last innings to win the Edgbaston Test. It was traditional batting from two classes of players in the form of their lives. Also, mundane things like the pitch was flat and although we thought it was a 5th day pitch, we didn’t see much traffic on it due to the high sun and rain interruption, it was a pitch that hadn’t aged much. It was a really good day 3 pitch.
That said, it would be wrong not to connect baseball in any way to the great performance of the last innings. Baseball’s success against NZ gave England batsmen the self-confidence that they could achieve what had been considered impossible for 100 years.
In terms of shot selection, it wasn’t the baseball, but the positive mindset that resulted from the results that came from the baseball. So what is this new thing in cricket, the baseball approach?
Also, basically how Rishabh Pant has been batting in Tests for the last 3 years. A big part of Rishabh Pant’s batting and his great success in Tests is his attacking play but more importantly the element of surprise. In Ahmedabad, it was classic baseball when Pant played that famous reverse scoop against Jimmy Anderson, who was running to bowl his first over with the second new ball.
Surprise the bowler by doing something he least expects, and you have a slight edge over the competition. Always, especially in Tests, bowlers expect the batsmen to do a respectable job for the bowler when the pressure is on. Rishabh Pant has already challenged the convention and now the England team has adopted the same approach.
Now let’s check if this method is good and can be successful in long run? In 31 Tests, Pant has scored 5 90s and 5 100s.
They may not play the same way in every innings but the bowler is a big part of their batting so the bowlers run cautiously and therefore bowl to them a little differently. He doesn’t have the confidence and clarity of thought to bowl to someone like Pujara or Virat for that matter.
It is amazing how Test cricket is changing in front of us as it tries to survive itself. Rishabh Pant and now England are injecting some real excitement and short-term unpredictability, which will still make some people interested in watching Tests.
There is another reason why England is trying this new approach, the old approach has not worked for them for years, so it basically means they have nothing to lose.
Why would they want to change anything if the traditional, old defensive line of blunt attack has kept England at the top of world cricket?
Other teams may start adopting this approach for the simple reason that defensive batting is too difficult for modern players to master.
We used to practice in the 80’s and 90’s because we mostly trained for Test cricket, but now with the current cricket landscape keeping balls out and defending with a steady bat is one of the many things that batsmen practice and this is definitely the case. Not on their agenda.
Bazball involves surprising the bowler with attacking, aerial and out-of-the-box shots when the bowler least expects it, which is no problem for today’s ‘T20 braid’ batter.
Brendon McCullum as a coach has given his batsmen license to go for it, if you see Ben Stokes’ reaction when Bumrah took the catch it was amazing and the smile on his face afterwards, he wasn’t feeling sheepish or devastated. He got out like that at the crucial stage of the Test match.
English players know they will not be crucified for what has historically been considered a terrible way to get out in Tests, a T20 license that now covers Test cricket.
I hope this approach can become widespread, take rank turners in India for example, overseas teams are generally struggling on it, how about using baseball again as a losing option?
Yes, it’s tough to get the ball out when it’s spinning a mile plus spinners don’t have any speed to use to your advantage but if the logic doesn’t work for so many years then why not try it?
There isn’t much going on for Shane Warne’s bowling attack to defeat the baseball threat in world cricket, so it’s currently going on quite a bit.
One wonders if England would have scored 379 if Shane Warne, a bowler who bowled non-stop from one end, had been there.