The summer of Bazball under Stokes has been a season of pure fun
There was no hum around the Oval yesterday as England openers Zak Crawley and Alex Lees walked from the pavilion to the crease, probably because the overriding feeling was one of inevitability.
Ben Stokes’s England needed only 33 runs on the final day of the deciding Test match against South Africa to earn another series win under head coach Brendon McCullum and secure a sixth win of the summer.
They did it in 26 minutes, albeit with Lees falling to an lbw dismissal at the hands of South African player of the series Kagiso Rabada.
It marked a romping victory for England, by nine wickets, to conclude a three-match series that had only nine days of actual play.
The Lord’s Test match was over in three days as Bazball looked to have run into its first major obstacle but England soon levelled the series in Manchester, again inside three days.
And so it came down to the closing Test of the summer in south London. It was a match overshadowed by the death of Queen Elizabeth II but one sublime tribute later – on Saturday morning – play got underway.
The quick conclusion yesterday morning finished a summer of success for Stokes and McCullum. It has been England’s most successful summer since 2004 and it has been, quite simply, fun.
Series wins against New Zealand and South Africa – as well as a victory in the delayed final Test against India – rounded off a summer which has reignited a love of Test cricket for many.
The revolution is here and it’s capturing the attention of Test match fans everywhere. Bowler James Anderson said the world was watching, and it probably is, but the question is whether anyone can nullify Bazball.
It has worked on the familiar pitches of England but what about in Pakistan, India, South Africa and, of course, Australia?
Cricket is a sport of variables. Whether it be the weather, the ball, the pitch or the humidity, plans for success can change on a sixpence.
Stokes likes batting last, with his side knowing exactly what they need to do to chase down a score – their only loss this summer, against South Africa in the second Test, came when they were forced to set the target.
But at the Oval yesterday England’s Test summer came to a conclusion. In December they’ll travel to Pakistan for a three-match series, but between now and then is a seven-game Twenty20 series against the same opponents and the small matter of another T20 World Cup.
Bazball is here to stay, and that’ll please many. It has reinvigorated a desire to be at Test cricket after a period of struggle for England under past regimes.
It’s a fitting conclusion to a successful first chapter of the Stokes-McCullum era, but there’s a long way to go before the latest chronicle of English cricket can officially be deemed a success.
Stokes’s Test side will next emerge in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, where Bazball will face its first overseas setting. That represents a completely different obstacle for the new era of English cricket to overcome.