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One year of Bazball: Have England changed the Test game?

Unprecedented scoring rates have been the calling card of the Stokes-McCullum regime

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
Brendon McCullum speaks to the press, England vs Ireland, Lord's practice, May 29, 2023

Brendon McCullum speaks to the press at Lord's  •  PA Photos/Getty Images

We don't know exactly the moment Bazball was born. Was England's approach to Test cricket discussed in the first meeting between the team's new coach and captain, Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes? Perhaps we can trace it to the run chase at Trent Bridge, a dizzying 50-over romp to 299 in the second Test of last summer. Or maybe it was a twinkle in McCullum's eye back when he was still an all-format player.
We do know that Friday will mark exactly a year since the pair came together to revive England's Test fortunes, starting with the home series against New Zealand in June 2022. Never mind the philosophical debates - and the fact that England, and McCullum in particular, don't like the zeitgeist-surfing nickname for their style of play - it seems a good time to check in on the revolution, with England having won 10 out of 12 Tests and preparing for six more across the next two months, including an eagerly anticipated Ashes series.

Stokes the fire

Whatever the effect of Stokes' captaincy, things couldn't really have got much worse. England had won one Test in 17 under Joe Root, going back to the winter of 2020-21, and after the failed "red-ball reset" in the Caribbean were ready for a complete reboot.
The beauty of Test cricket is that is always more than one way to win - and there is still a place for old-fashioned, copper-bottomed batting, as New Zealand showed when turning the Basin Reserve Test on its head in February, thereby handing Stokes only his second defeat. Australia have already made noises to suggest they won't be lining up to accept a pasting. Whether Bazball can maintain trajectory into its second year will not be in England's hands alone.
With stats inputs from S Rajesh and Sampath Bandarupalli.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick