Sportsmail’s cricket experts discuss whether ‘Bazball’ England are the most important Test team
England sealed a landmark whitewash victory over Pakistan on Tuesday morning, winning the third of three Tests by eight wickets.
That victory takes the side’s winning record since Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes joined forces to nine from ten matches, making next summer’s Ashes series that much more highly-anticipated.
Here Sportsmail’s cricket experts discuss the importance of the England Test team to the rest of the world, whether Jonny Bairstow can make it back into the side, and whether Rehan Ahmed should play in the 2023 Ashes series.
Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes have won nine of their 10 Tests as head coach and captain
England are the world’s most exciting team – are they also the most important?
Nasser Hussain: I’m not sure what bearing England’s style will have on how other teams play. It’s hard enough changing the culture of one side, let alone everyone else.
But we can safely say their transformation has been remarkable. And they’ve made people talk about Test cricket a lot more — they’re very important.
David Lloyd: I disagree, Nasser, because I think other teams will follow suit. They will have to!
England sealed a whitewash victory over Pakistan after sealing the third victory on Tuesday
Not just in the men’s game either — this could be a game changer for women’s cricket, too. It has a great following but it can kick on with this approach. We want to engage young people — so the game has to be exciting.
Paul Newman: I’m with you, Bumble. It has been Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum’s mission to save Test cricket with a completely new approach and everyone has to get on board — even the arch-pragmatists of South Africa. England are the most important because they can inspire a new generation.
Lawrence Booth: Test cricket has always needed England, because they take the format as seriously as anyone. But they’ve now achieved something very few Test teams have managed — they’ve created a buzz, and the fascination is seeing how opponents try to deal with it. That’s fantastic for the game.
Leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed took five for 48 runs on his Test debut at just 18 years and 128 days
Can Bazball work in the Ashes and India?
Booth: People keep asking the question, and England keep providing the answer. No one’s been able to handle them yet, and there’s no reason it can’t work against Australia, who — don’t forget — haven’t won a Test series in England since 2001.
India away in early 2024 will be the bigger examination.
Lloyd: I can see teams going toe to toe with England so that in itself means it can work. Remember, Lawrence, Australia can say they started all this when Steve Waugh had them going at four an over.
India are the fascinating test but they will be under pressure to play this way, too. It’s changing the face of all cricket.
Ben Duckett has made an instant impact since coming in at the top of the order in Pakistan
Hussain: Well, it’s worked in Pakistan, and people weren’t sure it would! India will be a different challenge because their pitches turn.
But for me, Bumble, the biggest test will be against Australia’s four seamers and Nathan Lyon. Having said all that, can we just enjoy what they’ve done in Pakistan?
Newman: I think we are all in agreement on this. Why can’t it work against Australia and India? It’s been fascinating to see more and more people get on board with Bazball yet there are still a few cynics who keep on saying ‘what if?’.
We are all just going to have to accept that the draw, like history, is now bunk.
How does Bairstow get in? Is Duckett here for the long haul?
Lloyd: That’s what Jonny Bairstow will be thinking! But he can bat anywhere and he can take the gloves.
I don’t know what you guys felt but I didn’t see Duckett coming. Is he an opener? Someone saw it in him and he’s done very well. He’s in possession, so he stays.
Jonny Bairstow starred for England during the summer Tests
Hussain: If Jonny’s fit, he has enough credit in the bank to come back in. It may be harsh on Ben Foakes, but then I’d never have taken the gloves off Bairstow in the first place.
For Duckett, New Zealand will be a big test. If he plays the moving ball well, then makes early-season runs in England, he deserves to start the Ashes.
Booth: I hate to say it, but Bairstow’s return is probably bad news for Foakes, who maybe got a taste of things to come when England preferred Ollie Pope to keep wicket in Multan.
Otherwise, who do they drop? Not Duckett, who has been England’s second-best batter in Pakistan behind Harry Brook.
Newman: As soon as Bairstow is fit he has to play. And, yes, if even you feel it is Foakes who makes way, Bumble, then I reluctantly agree.
Word late last summer was that Rob Key believed Duckett was perfect for this style — not just in Pakistan — so he stays. But if he struggles in New Zealand, that could be Jonny’s route back.
Which spinner should England pick in New Zealand in February?
Jack Leach has taken more Test wickets than any bowler in 2022 so far
Newman: Jack Leach has taken more Test wickets than anyone in 2022 and has been brilliantly handled by Stokes but he has probably reached his ceiling.
England are breaking with all convention and throwing Rehan Ahmed in at Karachi was inspired. Why not carry on?
Hussain: No Paul, it should be Leach, who gives you that control you need in England. It’s different in Pakistan — Ahmed showed it’s useful for the second spinner to have some mystery.
If he keeps working on his batting, he can challenge Leach. He needs to play as much cricket as possible — red or white ball.
Booth: In New Zealand I’d pick Ahmed, because the pitches will be flat and you need a bowler who can beat both edges of the bat.
In England, it’s trickier. Leach understands his role, as he showed when taking 10 wickets against New Zealand at Headingley. But he’ll need to keep performing to hold Ahmed at arm’s length.
Lloyd: Can we just make sure Ahmed doesn’t end up carrying drinks if he’s not playing? I think Leach plays in New Zealand, but against Australia? If we get good weather, good pitches and good boundaries, go for the leg-spinner.
Teenager Ahmed could push Leach for his spot in the side if he can work on his batting
What’s your team for the first Ashes Test?
Lloyd: Crawley, Duckett, Pope, Root, Brook, Stokes, Bairstow (wkt), Ahmed, Wood, Robinson, Anderson.
Jack Russell will kill me for not picking Foakes and I know I’ve talked up the virtues of a top-level keeper but Bairstow is a proper keeper, too. And you have to get him in.
Booth: Crawley, Duckett, Pope, Root, Brook, Stokes, Bairstow (wkt), Woakes, Robinson, Archer, Anderson.
The headache is the bowling attack, especially if Jofra Archer is available again. And it’s harsh on both Stuart Broad and Mark Wood. But England will rotate as the series progresses, and Leach will play a role, too.
No batter has more runs in 2022 than former captain Joe Root (1098) who leads Australia’s Usman Khamaja by 13
Hussain: Crawley, Duckett, Pope, Root, Brook, Stokes, Bairstow (wkt), Robinson, Wood, Leach, Anderson.
It slightly depends what happens against New Zealand and Ireland, but I like the fact this team has faith in players. Broad can come in later in the series, especially if David Warner is opening.
Newman: Crawley, Duckett, Pope, Root, Brook, Stokes, Bairstow (wkt), Ahmed, Wood, Robinson, Anderson.
I’m loath to leave out Foakes and Broad but what depth England now have. And, of course, if Archer is fit he needs to play sooner rather than later. What a contrast from the start of this year! From zeros to heroes with plenty more to come… bring on the Aussies.
Jofra Archer could return to the side straight away once he returns from a long-term injury
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