Ben Stokes has promised England will not change their new bold and aggressive approach to Test cricket no matter the challenge in front of them.
After four thrilling victories against New Zealand and India earlier this summer, South Africa are the next opponent trying to burst the hosts’ bubble.
Since red-ball captain Stokes and new head coach Brendon McCullum took over, England have produced exhilarating cricket where records have tumbled with 378 chased down at Edgbaston last month.
It has resulted in the playful term ‘Bazball’ being coined but outsiders like Steve Smith and Dean Elgar have cast doubt over the longevity of a philosophy which has transformed the way the longest format is viewed again in the UK.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) July 6, 2022
Lord’s is the venue for Wednesday’s opening Test of a three-match series and Stokes is adamant even if his team bat first, having chased for their victories in 2022, it will not make a difference.
“No matter what conditions we have, we’ve got our way of playing and we’re going to stick to that. We’ll adapt to situations, but we’ll always go out with the same mindset that you’ve seen over the last four games,” he said.
“We’ve said if we have to chase down 400 in 60 overs on day five, we’ll try and do it, but it’s the same mindset with the ball. If we’ve got 40 overs to bowl a team out on day five, we’ll be doing everything that we can to do that and not just hope it happens.
“One of my desires as captain, away from the cricket and results, was how can we capture the imagination of the English followers again?
“I still firmly believe that if we had walked away on the wrong side of those games and not come away with a win, especially the Trent Bridge game if we hadn’t chased those (299) runs down, the people there and watching on TV would obviously have been disappointed with the result but they would have been excited with what they’d seen and would have wanted to come watch us.
“We would have got their support even if we hadn’t won, which is a very rare thing to do as a sporting team that you lose but you gain more fans and excitement out of the way you play, so honestly if we’d lost 4-0, I wouldn’t be sitting here changing the way I ask the lads to play.”
England’s new ultra-aggressive approach has filtered down, with the Lions playing in the same manner in thrashing South Africa in Canterbury last week.
Centuries by Harry Brook and Ben Duckett, plus Dan Lawrence’s run-a-ball 97, saw the Lions post 672 and win by an innings and 56 runs in the four-day match.
Ollie Robinson and Craig Overton impressed with the ball but England’s only change from the win over India is that fit-again Ben Foakes is back behind the stumps in place of Sam Billings.
But Stokes added: “We have a certain type of way of playing and everyone else needs to know that who is trying to push to get in this England team.
“There’s perhaps more excitement than normal (about playing for the Lions) because I think you’ve been able to really express yourself in the way that you feel like you’ve always wanted to, but not felt like you can because you’ll get a slap on the wrist for playing a stupid shot. Well you’re not going to get that in our team here.
“You see the likes of Dan Lawrence, Ben Duckett, Harry Brook, those guys are seriously excelling at the moment with the way we want guys to play.”
While Brook in particular is knocking on the door, Stokes’ faith in opener Zak Crawley remains unwavering.
The Kent batter averages 17.75 in eight Test innings this summer but earned praise from his captain for his contribution of 46 in a century stand for the first wicket with Alex Lees that kick-started England’s excellent chase of 378 to beat India last month.
“Him and Leesy were the main reason why we won,” Stokes insisted.
“Hand on heart I can say that was the most pleasing thing to me over those four or five weeks, that opening partnership at Edgbaston. To see Zak go out and still play in such a selfless manner.
“When you look at it from my point of view, I think you can see why these guys are getting the backing from me. They’re buying into what we’re doing and it’s not about them, the bigger picture is about winning the game.”