Cricket: India launches England’s much-hyped Bazball into orbit as it soars to a 4-1 victory

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Ben Stokes and his high-flying England squad arrived in India some two months ago confident that its new-found attacking philosophy called Bazball — devised by coach Brendon McCullum — would have the home team’s heads swirling in the air.

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They dreamt of returning to Heathrow to be greeted by thousands of fans after breaching India’s almost impenetrable wall and handing it its first loss in 12 years. But Rohit Sharma and his inexperienced young team were not intimidated by Bazball that actually failed to take off the ground. In fact, it was India that gave England a lesson on aggressive cricket and proved it with 72 sixes in the series compared to England’s 30. Free-flowing opener Yashasvi Jaiswal led the way in the series with two double centuries and 26 clouts over the ropes.

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After stunning India in the first Test in Hyderabad, England unravelled spectacularly with the final nail into Bazball’s coffin driven in on the foothills of the Himalayas in colourful and high-altitude Dharamsala. Even a meeting with spiritual leader Dalai Lama in that picturesque town didn’t give the squad any supernatural help as England tumbled to an ignominious defeat by an innings and 64 runs inside three days and a 4-1 crushing.

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England could and should have made the Indians sweat by possibly winning the second and third Tests but the English had their brains scrambled by Bazball. Attack at all costs was the motto. Great in the Twenty20 game not Test cricket. Even though England was competitive at times, the visitors aren’t likely to forget that record 434-run thrashing in the third Test and an innings capitulation in Dharamsala. Many English “experts” believed this attacking philosophy was new to the game, conveniently forgetting that the West Indies led by the incomparable Sir Viv Richards and the Australians anchored by Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist tore a strip off the red ball with a vengeance years before McCullum “discovered” the art of getting England to smash the ball.

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Now, thankfully, we can erase Bazball from our vocabulary. It is dead and unlikely to be spoken of in the near future. All credit to Stokes, who had a miserable series with the bat, to admit his team was “totally outplayed.” In fact, this is the first time if memory serves me right the England squad did not attribute the rout because of the surface being “doctored” for Indian spinners. This time the wickets played fair and square and this was the first defeat for the Stokes-McCullum partnership.

The coach said there will be some tweaks as it moves forward. “A lot of good will come out of this tour. I’m 100 per cent positive about that,” McCullum told BBC Sport. “We will be a better cricket team for the experience, although it hurts a lot at the moment.”

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McCullum was not willing to talk about where he has concerns. He would possibly focus on his lower batting lineup, while he had to be pleased with the emergence of spinners Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir, both uncapped before the series. Hartley finished with 22 wickets and 19-year-old Bashir weighed in with two hauls of five wickets to finish with 17 behind leading wicket-taker Ravichandran Ashwin, who took 26 and also celebrated his 100th cap in Dharamsala.

One of the few moments of cheer for England in Dharamsala came on day three, when the evergreen James Anderson at the age of 41 joined the elite by becoming the first fast bowler and only the third bowler in Test history to take 700 wickets. Only spinners — Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan (800) and the late Shane Warne (708) — have achieved this incredible feat. Apart from Anderson, others who made their mark in India included former captain Joe Root, openers Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow to some extent.

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India, of course, were without ace batsman Virat Kohli, K.L. Rahul and Mohammed Shami, but they weren’t missed. Middle-order batsman Sarfaraz Khan, Devdutt Padikkal and wicket-keeper Dhruv Jurel made their debuts and impressed with huge scores while spinner Kuldeep Yadav proved a handful along with Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Fast bowler Akash Deep made an instant impact when he came in for pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah in the third Test. With skipper Sharma, Shubman Gill and Jaiswal in superb form India’s bowling and batting looked formidable and in good hands going forward.

CAREY STARS FOR AUSSIES

Wicket-keeper Alex Carey scored a glorious unbeaten 98 to propel Australia to a three-wicket victory over New Zealand in the second-Test thriller in Christchurch to seal a 2-0 series for the visitors. Carey and Mitchell Marsh starred in a 140-run stand for the sixth wicket to chase down the 279 needed for victory. The Aussies bounced back from four for 34 and then five for 80 to maintain its 13-year unbeaten streak versus New Zealand. For the Kiwis fast bowler Matt Henry captured nine wickets in the match while debutant fast bowler Ben Sears also made a huge impression with four for 90.

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