England have become pretty accustomed to racking up records under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum.
Against India in July, they completed their highest successful chase of 378. In Pakistan in December, they became the first team to score 500 on the opening day of a Test match.
Now, three of their players could earn some more records in this week’s day-night Test against New Zealand.
If Harry Brook hits a hundred for the fourth straight Test, he will match Ken Barrington for the most tons in consecutive games for England – Barrington having done four in a row twice in the 1960s.
And if James Anderson and Stuart Broad pick up five wickets between them in Mount Maunganui, they will become the most prolific bowling partnership in Test cricket history.
England XI for first Test vs New Zealand
Ben Duckett, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (captain), Ben Foakes (wicketkeeper), Ollie Robinson, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, James Anderson
Broad and Anderson have 997 wickets combined from Tests they have played together, just four behind the record of 1,001 held by Glenn McGrath and the late Shane Warne for Australia.
Anderson and Broad – save for a few occasions, such as last March’s tour of West Indies when they were both dropped and in Pakistan two months ago when Broad was on paternity leave – have been permanent fixtures in the England team since being paired in New Zealand in 2008. Brook is only four Tests into his career but looks as though he could have similar longevity.
The Yorkshireman can boom it with the best of them – twice in Rawalpindi in December he looked on course to shatter the England-record 76-ball century Gilbert Jessop had smoked against Australia at The Oval in 1902 – but there is more to his game than that.
He picks up length so quickly, particularly against spinners; has a solid defensive technique to boot, plus a Kevin Pietersen-esque authority at the crease.
Sky Sports’ Mark Butcher said Brook has a ‘touch of genius about him’ amid his three tons on the trot in Pakistan before Christmas. England team-mate Broad does not think he has seen a more talented player than Brook in his career. England captain Stokes feels the 23-year-old can enjoy the all-format success enjoyed by India’s Virat Kohli. Praise indeed.
It seems inconceivable that Brook won’t be in England’s Ashes XI come the summer, even if Jonny Bairstow, whose leg break on a golf course handed Brook his red-ball chance, is fit. Broad and Anderson will surely be there, too, 15 months on from their international careers appearing in peril after they were left out of the Caribbean tour by acting director of cricket Sir Andrew Strauss.
It was a decision which frustrated the seamers at the time but one that, in hindsight, Broad believes has actually extended his England career, having spared him from bowling on batter-friendly surfaces.
He and Anderson were quickly restored by Stokes for the home summer and have since played their part in a ‘Bazball’ revolution they wish had been adopted by the national team far earlier, one that has yielded nine wins from 10, and one Brook fits into perfectly.
Bazball goes back to where it was born
‘Bazball’ is not a word England like but it is a philosophy we have all come to understand: taking the positive option all times.
Destructive but not daft. Aggressive but not cavalier. Clear, confident and clinical whether you are looking to smash a six, play a forward defence, take a wicket or win a game.
It is a philosophy that originated in the very country England now find themselves in. A philosophy that impacted English cricket long before Baz, aka Brendon McCullum, became their Test coach.
It was while McCullum was captaining his native New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup that we saw how Bazball worked. The buccaneering cricket he got the Black Caps playing propelled them to the final.
Their most destructive victory along the way came against England in Wellington with Baz the chief destroyer.
After England had been razed for 123 by the seven-wicket Tim Southee, McCullum smote 77 from 25 balls as his team reached their target in 12.2 overs. England annihilated and skipper Eoin Morgan determined that his team would now follow New Zealand’s lead.
Morgan’s mindset transformed England from chumps to champions in limited-overs cricket and played a part in shaping Stokes’ ideas for how the Test team should play. It started with Bazball and continues with Bazball. New Zealand could now bear the brunt of it, as they did last summer when they were swept 3-0 in England.
Bazball’s next challenge is the pink ball, with England not yet having played a day-night Test under Stokes and McCullum. We know their approach won’t change – they scored 465 in 69.2 overs in a warm-up – but they will hope their record in twilight Tests does.
England have been no pink-ball wizards. Since galloping to victory by an innings and 209 runs against West Indies in their first day-night Test at Edgbaston in 2017 – 19 West Indies wickets fell on the third and final day – England have played five, lost five. Thumped thrice overseas by Australia and once each by New Zealand and India.
Their all-out totals have included 112, 81 and 58. In that collapse of 58, against New Zealand in Auckland in 2018, they were 27-9 before Craig Overton’s unbeaten 33 lessened the embarrassment a tad.
With a record like that, England could be forgiven for never wanting to play a pink-ball Test again. Seamer Ollie Robinson certainly wouldn’t miss them, saying earlier this week: “I don’t think we need to play these pink-ball games. It’s a bit gimmicky. There is nothing wrong with traditional Test cricket to start with.
“They’re trying to get crowds in and change the game a little bit but the way England are playing Test cricket at the moment, I don’t think that needs to happen. We’re entertaining people as we are.”
England will be out to entertain again at Bay Oval from Thursday, giving spectators something to enjoy with the home ones perhaps affected by the cyclone that has ravaged New Zealand’s North Island. Those in attendance could see Brook equal history and Anderson and Broad make it.
As has become the norm with Bazball, records are not too far away.
England XI for first Test: Ben Duckett, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (captain), Ben Foakes (wicketkeeper), Ollie Robinson, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, James Anderson
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