England’s Ashes challenge ends with memories in name of Bazball
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England’s Ashes challenge ends with memories made in Bazball’s honor

Selection mistakes and preparation muddled things, but Broad’s bowling and Stokes’ blazing innings made up for it

The fifth day of the fourth Test began the same way it has all series: with England having a kickabout on the outfield. The only difference this time was that it was pouring down rain. For a while, it seemed like England were trying to con everyone else into believing the conditions were suitable for the 1pm start the umpires promised earlier in the morning. With the rain growing heavier and more players and coaches joining them, it became evident that it wasn’t really worth it.

What else could they do on a rainy day at Old Trafford but enjoy themselves in the wet? Assistant coach David Saker, who will drink everyone under the table later that evening, looked like a group of lads on a stag do in Newquay.

Therefore, Australia has retained the Ashes and the best England can do now is draw the series. Well, they never promised to win, just that they could, and that the rest of us should enjoy watching them try. Some of us have refused to listen to them since the beginning. “We will play without fear.”. Nothing will hold us back. Before the match, Ben Stokes wrote, “We’re going to make some memories.”. It is hoped that we take the urn back, but the most important thing is that you will be entertained, no matter what happens.

Cricket isn’t just for entertainment for everyone. It’s all about winning for them. “Not in our environment,” Stuart Broad said at the beginning of the series. Those bucket hats are all sold out, by the way, even England and Wales Cricket Board’s managing director, Rob Key, can’t get one for his kids. This week, a couple of enterprising locals have been selling knockoffs outside the stadium for ten pounds. Perhaps the 2023 Ashes are best understood as “a story about men in hats”, as Ethan Coen said about Miller’s Crossing. Duckett’s buckets is the name of the line Duckett wants to launch. There is no way to tell if he is joking or not.

England has done it the other way before. At the beginning of the last decade, the game was a matter of life and death. Andy Flower took them to boot camps in the Black Forest, where they hauled bricks up mountains and boxed each other. They reached the top of the world rankings. As a result, they blew up on tour in Australia and their best quick had to go home because the stress made him unable to bowl, and their No 3 batsman developed such severe performance anxiety that he couldn’t even put on a tracksuit.

Each member of this team has their own vulnerabilities. Duckett embarrassed himself so badly on his debut tour that he spent years pretending to be someone else. They retired Moeen Ali, their No 3, from Test cricket two years ago due to his jaded state of mind. All four of their fast bowlers are in pieces. Jack Leach, who hasn’t even played in this series, has Crohn’s disease. Stokes, their captain, has been taking mental health medication.

Ben Stokes on the England team balcony

All of them slogged through the pandemic, just like the rest of us. The only difference is that they spent theirs in hotels, away from their families, riding in planes and buses to play in empty stadiums. If sport is anything, it should be fun, and English Test cricket was anything but that for years. We are now all wearing bucket hats, baseball caps, bandanas, and bowling rockets over midwicket while grinning.

There have been mistakes made by England over the past few weeks. There were poor shots and dropped catches, their preparation was a muddle, and some of their selections were incorrect. The first day declaration at Edgbaston can be questioned, as can whether they should have picked a spinner at Lord’s, and whether they should have let Jonny Bairstow bat on so long on Friday afternoon at Old Trafford. At Edgbaston, Stuart Broad got Marnus Labuschagne with an outswinger and Stokes ripped those sixes into the Lord’s Mound Stand and Mark Wood bowled faster than light at Headingley.

Zak Crawley’s drive, for example. Bairstow’s pull, for example. Then you can ask yourself why we play sport, what you want from watching it, and what bits you will remember in years to come.

Meanwhile, Bazball won the 2.30 at Bath on Wednesday. Rouleur described Matej Mohoric’s win on stage 19 of the Tour de France as Bazball cycling on Friday. According to Larry Elliott of the Guardian, Bazball economics is on the rise. According to the Times, Chris Eubanks lost his Wimbledon quarter-final match to Bazball tennis. A Bazball approach to interest rates is needed by the Bank of England before the pound tanks, according to the International Financing Review.

Duckett’s wife will ask him years from now if he’s ever going to get those boxes of leftover bucket hats out of the shed when we look back and wonder what the hell all this was all about. But before all that, you still have one week left to enjoy this series. It’s pointless to hold up the wall if you’re not making a contribution.