What’s the flavour of the season? Bazball
If not for the numerous corrections from the various word processors, Bazball would have been already more than a thing, it would have been the headlining act of the Oxford Dictionary. The mood around Edgbaston was something similar.
Ben Stokes minced nothing when he said, ‘we will bat first’. It was an extremely batter-friendly wicket, and if it wasn’t evident from Zak Crawley’s first-ball boundary, it was evident from the entire day of action that ended with Australia batting and trailing by 379 runs.
If you are still wondering what’s a Bazball, here is a definition that could get you started
"Play positive red-ball cricket; to soak up pressure when required but also be brave enough to put it back on opponents at the earliest opportunity; to make taking wickets the sole aim in the field; and to strive chiefly for victory across the five days without considering the draw," Ali Martin of The Guardian described Bazball.
Bazball is fast, exhilarating and, more importantly, fun. That was the memo that was sent to the thousands of enthusiastic fans seated in Birmingham. Most of the players in the setup were equipped with the gifted ability to Bazball naturally, but none more than Joseph Edward Root.
Root’s natural game was more time at the crease, batting long, but ever since he has been exposed to this Gamma rays that is Bazball, his batting has become naturally more rousing and give-the-goosebumps from a more like at-my-own-pace lad.
At 92/2, Bazball had a brilliant platform when Root walked out to bat. The crowd were in the midst of their familiar chant as “Hey Root” started spurring around at the Edgbaston. The crowd were already at their celebratory best, and Root’s introduction was perhaps a tribute to the yesteryear gladiator tune that played out in the Colosseum.
Root walked out in the calmest of fashions.
But inside, there would have definitely been a slight murmur, a voice that would have told him: You haven’t got a century against Australia since 2015.
For someone of Root’s calibre, eight years is a lot of time, perhaps it is equivalent to a lifetime.
That century was in Nottingham. Since then, he has agonizingly come close: 71, 83 and 89, but that final step was not there to be seen. Further to add to that, under the new Bazball era, there were squeaking doubts over whether Root would fit this Bazball culture as he did in English cricket over the last decade and a half. But all those doubts, Test after Test, vanished, and it vanished in style.
When did you last see Root play a reverse-lap to a pacer?
Have you seen Root smash a high-quality pacer over the keeper’s head for a massive six?
If the answer to both questions are not too long ago, and yes, you know a thing or two about Bazball era.
But what Root did today was a fitting tale of the style's success. Around him was path-breaking cricket and chart-breaking cricketers, playing like a Sunday league match against a bunch of dad-bod cricketers.
It was Australia and a bowling attack that thrashed India in the second edition of the World Test Championship final just a week ago. A week later, England forced them to resort to defensive tactics, placing fielders in the deep to avoid further work for the kids around the boundary rope. The ball flew like they co-starred in a Harry Potter movie with Quidditch.
If not the biggest reason, one of the biggest definitely was Root. His intent was clear from ball one: when he walked down the track to a Cummins’ pearler. And then he did the most Root-est of things: soaking the pressure whilst having the best seat to the Crawley show.
When Harry Brook came out, Root continued trudging the ball around, but as Jonny Bairstow, his friend, walked out, the dazzling display of surrealism came. The surrealism that Root has come to be known for in the near past.
For the oldest-generation crowd in Birmingham, there was the straight drive. For the slightly old ones, there was the cover drive. If you were newer than that, there were the flicks. If you are toddling immediately, there was the ultimate shot of them all, a reverse lap to satiate your palette. The best was against a tailing Cummins’ delivery, which was nonchalantly looped over for a six.
Root’s innings construction was from the top drawer. His first 30 balls had him strike at 56.67, and the attack percentage of 23.3 was quite low for the Bazball era. But as his innings progressed, there came a time when that percentage threatened to tread past the 50% mark.
When he reached his three-figure mark, he said “Yes” with a loud scream, and the crowd continued. It was almost like both of them went hand-in-hand.
The Yorkshire batter saw the best and worst of all, he saw Crawley and Bairstow smash, Brook get bowled in the funniest way possible, and Stokes and Moeen throw the kitchen sink. While at it, he also gave license to the likes of Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson to be at their attacking best. Root’s innings was perhaps the finest of the finest but is that it?
Ever since the start of the Bazball era, there has been no better batter than Root.
That is not just aesthetically talking but statistically stating. Since the Bazballing culture took over mainstream English cricket, Root has accumulated over 1200 runs and has done it while averaging 68.5 and striking at 76.1, which is the third-best strike rate in the team.
The fact that no one has scored more runs than him in Test cricket during that time frame is a testament to his genius.
Root’s unbelievable numbers don’t end there.
Across all Tests since 2021, Root has 3299 runs, nine half-centuries, 13 hundreds, and an average of 58.91. It doesn’t end there.
No other batter has scored over 2,000 runs or hit more than seven hundreds in this period. That’s putting it out lightly.
The real truth is that he has 30 Test centuries and only one man in English cricket has more tons than him: Sir Alastair Cook.
Take England out of the equation, only Smith has more Test centuries amongst the present lot.
Even if you chuck that away, Root has scored 13 centuries in his last 33 matches.
Root is the real definition of Bazball, play positive red-ball cricket, soak up pressure and be brave enough to put it back on the opponents.
Sing along now: Na na na nananana, nannana, hey Root.
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