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HomeBig BreakingNature of England’s third Test defeat surely spells end for Bazball rhetoric

Nature of England’s third Test defeat surely spells end for Bazball rhetoric

Ben Stokes’ side are the most exciting in a generation but actions need to speak louder than words after collapse in India

Yashasvi Jaiswal hits his 12th six into the bleachers in Rajkot on the way to a majestic and punishing double century. “Pah, merely a flesh wound!”

Jimmy Anderson, your 41‑year‑old seamer who detests going for boundaries and prides himself on parsimonious economy rates, is smeared for 78 runs in 13 bone‑grinding overs in the afternoon sun. “Tis but a scratch!”

India send in Kuldeep Yadav as a nightwatchman at the close of day three and the home side close with a 322-run lead with eight wickets in hand. “Pffff, they look rattled!”

Yadav comes out the next morning and drives your inexperienced off-spinner down the ground for a handsome six off the third over of the day, the first time he has cleared the ropes in his international career. “Look at them, they’re obviously panicking now!”

The left-arm spinner might have a Charlie Chaplin haircut but is in no mood for larking around. Indeed, he makes 27 runs off 91 balls and spends 93 minutes at the crease, half an hour longer than any of your side will manage in your own second innings when set a target of 557 runs to get in a day and half of batting. “Wait, maybe this is starting to smart, a little.”

Mark Wood clubs a spitting ball from Ravindra Jadeja down the ground only to be caught at mid‑off by Jaiswal to seal a 434-run defeat that sees you go down 2-1 in the series. “OK, OK, OK, you got us. But we’ll be back, just you wait. Also, maybe give us a shout out in the post-match presser for inspiring the way you play? You couldn’t have done it without us, remember?”

Enough. Enough now. This defeat surely calls time, comprehensively, on the Black Knight-inspired rhetoric that sometimes wafts out of the Bazball camp. Put the placards down and the swivel-eyed pronouncements away after that one, please.

Ollie Pope leaves the field after losing his wicket on the fourth day of the third Test against India. Photograph: Ajit Solanki/AP

A friend sends a message as England lose Ben Stokes to make it 50 for six, the England captain is the second of three wickets to fall with the team marooned on 50 runs and the inevitable chase vaporised. “The good thing about this loss is that it will surely bring an end to all the dreadfully cringe patter.”

He then sends a screengrab of Ben Duckett’s close-of-play pronouncement when asked about a realistic target England could chase in the fourth innings. “The more the better … they can have as many as they want and we’ll go and get them.” A day later and with England scudded out for 122 in less than 40 overs, Duckett’s glib and glass-eyed statement aged about as well as a lump of stilton left out on the Rajkot roof.

First of all, this is the most exciting England Test side in a generation. Not since the heady days of 2005 has a side inspired the cricketing and even wider public more. It’s been almost two years since Stokes grabbed hold of the lapels and ruffled the hair of a Test side that had won only once in 17 matches and turned them into a winning machine. Some of this side’s exploits have echoed from parks to pubs, petrol stations to parents’ evenings, cutting through on to front pages and, most importantly, bringing smiles – even incredulous fits of giggles – to the faces of those watching.

Actions speak louder than words, of course, but when some of the words are clunky as an anvil, self-aggrandising has a tendency to thud into the cochlea and stick in the craw. This England side is so damn likable that it’d be a real shame if they disappeared up the backside of their own mythologising.

Bazball is great down the pub, it’s brilliant with your mum and your friends, but it was a shame when you went back to Bazball’s flat and there was a ouija board on the kitchen table and crystal skulls peering down from the top of the fridge.

Notably, Stokes himself has dialled it back on the highfalutin statements about saving Test cricket and inspiring other teams. His rhetoric of late has largely been about what is best for his side, rather than focusing on anyone else. Those heady early days, though, have instilled in his charges a penchant for hyperbole at best and a sort of cute but also sort of cult-like ludicrousness at worst.

Part of the problem surrounds a desire for consistency with the public and private messaging of the side. It’s fantastic that they think this stuff, and the words have no doubt inspired some of the amazing feats of the past few years, but, please lads, keep a lid on it a bit, especially when some comments could be interpreted as you goading the opposition, or declaring yourselves saviours of the game.

“Everyone has got a perception and opinion; the people in the dressing room are the opinions that matter to us,” Stokes said after this game. Time now, then, to keep some of the more bonkers and irritating aspects of Bazball behind closed doors, too.



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