Ashes 2023: England are threatening to gift Australia victory at Lord’s- Bazball needs to get smarter
A reckless batting collapse on the third day at Lord’s has gifted Australia a shot at taking a 2-0 victory to Leeds
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The term ‘Bazball’ has been on the tip of every English cricket fan for the last year and a bit. In the time since, it has led to some of the bravest and aggressive Test wins many fans have ever seen.
In many matches, an unexpected declaration or a rapid fire century has snatched England victory from the jaws of death, or at least the snare of a draw, and with all this success it is no surprise that Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum have led their men into the LV= Insurance Men’s Ashes series with the exact same guile.
However- the early entries into ‘Bazball does Australia’ chapter do not make great reading. England have been reckless with the bat both at Edgbaston and at Lord’s, and Stokes’ declaration on the first day in Birmingham looked ill-timed, especially as Australia edged towards their two wicket victory.
Fanciful Test cricket is great to watch, and this is by no means a condemnation of Bazball or a rallying cry to put an end to it. THAT Ashes series in Australia of less than 18 months ago is fresh in my mind and the thought of returning to the days of our middle order scratching around for hours only to get 14 from 67 balls is not something I would wish on even my worst enemy.
Yet like most things which are good, moderation is surely needed. England were in an outstanding position on day two at Lord’s sitting on 188-1. They were making good progress, chipping away at the Australian total, and the heavy artillery of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood were being blunted.
Then, suddenly, England pressed the self-destruct button. In the efforts to get to Australia’s total quicker, the batters reverted to some woeful shot selection. All of the good, hard work was literally thrown into the sky- and then into the grateful hands of Australian fielders.
Australia had a very simple plan of peppering the English batters with the short ball. England could have ridden the storm and then counter attacked against tired bowlers, but they instead tried to go after then- a decision which contributed to a chaotic third morning at Lord’s.
This collapse was six wickets for just 47 runs. Other than Harry Brook reaching his 50, there was nothing to celebrate about the English batting. Only Ben Stokes’ wicket felt like a genuinely good delivery, with Harry Brook and Jonny Bairstow getting out cheaply. On a day where England needed to bat long and hard, they were bowling again by just after 12.30pm.
Australia are firmly in control of the second test at Lord’s, and the lead already looks likely to go way past 300. England could silence so many critics of their new game plan by going out in the fourth innings and knocking off whatever they restrict Australia to- but putting the hard yards in with the ball is the first priority.