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When double-edged sword Starc met double-edged sword Brook

Last updated on 27 Jul 2023 | 08:26 PM
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When double-edged sword Starc met double-edged sword Brook

It was that kind of a day at The Oval when two double-edged swords exchanged wounds with each other







Finally, Pat Cummins gets the call right on the toss. It has been that kind of a tour for Australia. The conditions have been poor most of the times they batted, and every time they bowled, the sun dazzled, making batting look easy. It was a theatre of its own, and Australia were barely breathing by the end of it. 

But they had fate in their own hands this time around. 

Ben Stokes was no longer pulling the strings. 

Till the score read 62/0, the momentum loved a ride in the Bazball lane. It was like this perfect dream for Bengalureans, a lane where you could drive your vehicle at a nice pace without being stopped by a speed bump. 

Bazball is that. Imagine this: two vehicles are moving at some pace and fist-bumps each other. That’s how the reality of Bazball is, you move fast, but simultaneously, you are at risk of crashing. 

That’s what happened today when England screechingly crashed from 62/0 to 73/3, losing Ben Duckett, Zak Crawley and Joe Root in the span of five overs. That was the accident. Bazball collided with Ozball, with silence filling the gap on either end of the screeches. 

Constantly at the other end was a certain Harry Brook. Someone who loved the speedy lanes, someone whose modus operandi was Fast and Furious. When he was still five, that modus operandi very well could have come to bite him. 

But that’s where Bazball works at its best: if you give the England batters a finger, they will eat your hand. Brook didn’t hide a thing. 

"I'd probably rather be on the recklessness side than the tentative side. Just always looking to score and I'm not just there to survive,” he warned you, me and the Australian side, and yet Alex Carey was reckless. 

Brook’s false-shot percentage was 14.2 on the day, and astonishingly was the second-least for any English batter on day one, with only Stokes playing fewer false shots (6.2%). It doesn’t mean that Brook played a chanceless innings, he gave Australia plenty of chances. 

Carey dropped a sitter when he was just on five. He could have walked back when he flashed one hard, which evaded Usman Khawaja. If not that, then a thick outside edge scooted through the third slip and gully, which could have resulted in dismissal as well. 

But once the dust settled, the storm started. Brook was 18 off 21. 

The introduction of Mitchell Marsh didn’t help either. Bang four, and then a no-look six. Brook wasn’t giving up, not when the only thing that was on his mind was an Ashes hundred. That’s when one double-edged sword - Brook - met the other double-edged sword, Starc. The Yorkshireman enjoyed a nice real starter with just two overs to go for Lunch. 

Four, four and six, the crowd went ballistic, and if the physical pain wasn’t already enough, Brook’s carnage put Starc into further trouble. If you were going to die, die wondering. That’s what the essence of Bazball is, and that’s exactly the type of game that Brook enjoys. 

After Lunch, you would assume that Brook’s appetite was satiated. But it wasn’t. He came out cutting, driving, and Australia were left pulling their hair. If the first few deliveries of his innings was him taking the utmost risk, his batting post-the break was anything but risky, it was classical timing at its best. 

Four, four and four, you could almost visualise Brook walking the talk. 


Remember the other double-edged sword: Starc? 

He’s a character. He’s that character that you desperately want when the chips are down. He’s that character that you will call despite knowing there is a possibility of failing to escape a forest filled with leopards. But despite that, you make the call. 

You make the call knowing that there is that small chance. That’s what makes Starc, Starc. He’s destructive and, more often than not, self-destructive to the team with his wayward line and length. But Australia were ready to pay that price for a reward. The reward being: wickets. 

Starc comes on to bowl from the Pavillion end

Immediately, there’s an edge, but that doesn’t carry to Smith. There’s almost a shock on the face of the Australians. The quickest bowler of their bowling attack gets an edge, and the ball doesn’t carry. There is a pensive look. But Starc doesn’t react that quickly. 

He runs in for a second over. He’s still getting his radar right. Three deliveries later, the only radar that Stokes knew was the way back to the dressing room. Starc is that double-edged sword, and he strikes on demand. Be it Virat Kohli in the World Test Championship (WTC) final or that spell of his at the Lord’s when he served bouncers like sandwiches in a college space.

Or even that one in Leeds, where he gave everything to prevent a win for England, with figures of 5/78. Starc is that player for Australia. Like Brook, he’s a double-edged sword they are willing to travel with. 

Stokes looks back in anguish. Then wonders. Then takes a moment. Looks at the pitch. And then finally comes to an agreement that Starc outdid him. When someone as clutch as Stokes does this, the bowler at the other end is quite special. An on-song Starc is nothing short of that.

He is one-of-a-pacy-kind. 

Starc celebrates, holding his finger upwards. Two overs later, he returns to remove Brook after the right-hander had just pinged him to the top-corner for a four. Brook, though, didn’t feel gutted. He lived by the sword and died by it. In fact, he was okay with it. 

The left-arm pacer then removed Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes to end the English innings on 283. Even though he was hit for 84 runs in his 15 overs, even though his economy rate was 5.59, and even though he conceded as many boundaries, Starc’s bowling left a long-lasting effect. 

Not just on the pitch but possibly on the series. Perhaps, this is the only similarity between Bazball and Ozball, the ability to trust a double-edged sword to the tilt. 

While Brook delivered a big slice in the Australian stomach, Starc put a dagger back close to the English heart, stopping the beating for a minute.

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