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Friday Dec 02 2022
By
AFP

'Bazball' bonanza: England deliver in spades under new coach McCullum

By
AFP
Cricket - Fifth Test - England Nets - Edgbaston, Birmingham, Britain - June 30, 2022 England head coach Brendon McCullum during nets—. Reuters
Cricket - Fifth Test - England Nets - Edgbaston, Birmingham, Britain - June 30, 2022 England head coach Brendon McCullum during nets—. Reuters 

RAWALPINDI: As England's batsmen racked up more than a run a ball on the opening day of the first Test against Pakistan, former Australia all-rounder Tom Moody tweeted: "Good to see the ODI series get started in Rawalpindi."

Moody's quip was bang on the money, with many scarcely believing they were watching a Test match as England plundered the runs Thursday as if playing a limited-overs game.

With 73 boundaries, four individual centuries, and a record first-day total of 506 runs at 6.74 per over, this was "Bazball" at its finest.

The term — homage to the nickname of new England head coach Brendon McCullum — describes the aggressive free-wheeling approach the New Zealander has instilled in the side since taking over in May.

"It's about putting on a show and putting the team in a good position," said Ollie Pope whose 107 made him one of four centurions in the England side.

McCullum and new skipper Ben Stokes have won six of seven Tests since taking over the management of the side — most with a flurry of big-hitting that has delighted fans.

"We all lived by the way the two guys at the top wanted us to play. They want us to entertain people," said Pope.

Besides Pope, Zak Crawley (122), Ben Duckett (107), and Harry Brook (153) all scored centuries at a pace usually associated with the one-day game, or Twenty20 cricket.

The Test was almost postponed after many of the tourists came down with a mystery bug, prompting another Twitter wag to say: "I don´t know what virus the England players have had, but they´ve definitely got the runs now."

Transformation

England's transformation in the shorter versions of cricket — they are world champions in both formats — has been remarkable.

After bowing out in the first round of the 2015 ICC world cup, then skipper Eoin Morgan rang the changes — calling for more aggression — and England have since racked up 14 of their 15 highest ODI totals.

But they tended to revert to type in the long form of the game, winning just one of 17 Tests — including a 4-0 Ashes humiliation in Australia.

That led to head coach Chris Silverwood and captain Joe Root being sacked, making way for McCullum and Stokes.

Known for his cavalier approach — dancing down the pitch to Mitchell Starc in the first over of the 2015 World Cup final in Melbourne — McCullum was ready for the challenge.

"If it could be done with the white-ball side so why can´t it be done with the Test side?" he asked.

England chased down targets of 277, 299, 296 and 378 in the summer to win their first four Tests under the new set-up and followed that up with a 2-1 series win over South Africa.

"We'll certainly be pushing for results because we see it as our obligation to try and ensure that people walk away entertained," McCullum said on arrival in Pakistan.

If the applause of the fans at Rawalpindi Stadium is the gauge, then people have certainly been entertained.