Ben Stokes Vindicated As BazBall Pays Off In Ashes Thriller
England captain Ben Stokes feels vindicated as his team tied the Ashes series on a thrilling final day, despite criticism of his brave "Bazball" attitude. Australia was in a strong position at 264-3, needing to win by a huge margin of 384 runs.
Even a draw would have been sufficient for them to win the series 2-1. But on the fifth day at The Oval, after a protracted rain delay, they instead had a spectacular collapse.
The final two wickets were taken by Stuart Broad as England won by 49 runs to tie the score at 2-2. England went into their match against Australia with the conviction that their upbeat strategy would succeed even against the recently crowned world Test champions.
With a strong record of 11 victories in 13 games since Stokes had partnered up with Brendon McCullum, for whom Bazball is named, they had a reason to be optimistic.
It was clear England had no intention of altering their approach from the time Zak Crawley smashed the opening ball of the Ashes for four at Edgbaston, despite the challenge posed by Australia's pace attack.
The fans have cheered England's strategy in crowded stadiums, but Stokes has come under fire for failing to apply the breaks at critical times.
When England was 393-8 with 30 minutes left in the first Test at Edgbaston, he raised questions by declaring, leaving Joe Root high and dry on 118 not out in a match they ultimately lost.
When they had the opportunity to seize control of the second Test at Lord's, England was condemned for falling for Australia's hooking trap.
Despite the disappointment of losing for 98, Ben Duckett brashly said that the squad did not regret accepting Australia's short-ball challenge.
"It's the way we play our cricket," he explained. "It would be completely against our style of play if we bombed out and went into our shells.
Despite Stokes' remarkable 155 in England's second innings, Australia went on to defeat England by 43 runs to take a 2-0 series lead. Without a rain in Manchester following Crawley's incredible 189 off 182 balls, the home team would very definitely have levelled the series at Old Trafford and won a thrilling match at Headingley by three wickets.
That would have turned it into a one-match shootout and perfectly set up the fifth and final Test at The Oval. Australia's target in London was lower than it may have been due to a flurry of unneeded wickets on Saturday, but in the end it made no difference because England came back to win.
Speaking after the win, Stokes claimed that England had been "very successful" with Bazball, but he admitted that he did not surprised to see resistance. Critique is a necessary component of anything you do, he continued.
"However, it goes without saying that the ideas of those who are close to me—people I'm attempting to influence in order to accomplish the results I want—are the most significant views and perspectives that we hold and that I hold as a leader.
"That's the vindication when you watch performances, especially in this series… The most important people you worry about are in your dressing room." Nasser Hussain, a former captain of England who lost to Australia in agony, expressed his conflict with the current team's strategy.
"In this series, I've been at a crossroads," he admitted to Sky Sports. "I understand the wider picture of wanting to amuse people, but I've also seen the historical image of how we once suffered at the hands of this group.
"Keep an Australian down when you have them. It also has to do with success. Yes, amuse, but also succeed. In order to win and entertain, England has just tightened up and gotten to the right side of the queue.