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'Bazball' or 'no ball'? Why England’s lack of attention to detail is costing them the Ashes

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5th July, 2023

Eight seconds. That’s the attention span of an average human adult in 2023. That’s the same amount of time it takes to tie a shoelace or run out a batsman who wanders from his crease.

In the year 2000, our attention spans were 12 seconds.

What does this have to do with cricket? Well, not much other than to illustrate the rapid decline in attention spans that has Test purists concerned for the game’s future.

England’s attempt to make the game interesting again has proven costly for them during this Ashes series, but it’s not the strategy itself that has been costly. It’s the lack of attention to detail in the strategy that has proven costly, something that even a mere four seconds could help correct.

Mitchell Starc celebrates after bowling Ollie Pope.

Mitchell Starc celebrates after bowling Ollie Pope. (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Extras hardly scores a run in most international Test matches, aside from maybe a misplaced bouncer or two conceding a run, or a batsman who struggles to catch up to a Mitchell Starc thunderbolt and limps painfully to the non-striker’s end nursing a bruised thigh.

But extras scored more runs than Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne combined in both Australian innings of the First Test. In the second Test, extras made an extra 74 runs for Australia. Take those out, and England wins by 31 runs.

The top scorer for the extras team is no balls, a frequent contributor for both sides. England have bowled 43 no balls, 14 of them by their captain Ben Stokes. Australia, by contrast, has bowled a mere 15 no-balls, 10 of them from Cameron Green.


Do you see the trend? An extra 28 runs have been leaked by England just by ill-disciplined foot placement. Furthermore, the Battle of the Bumpers, a.k.a. the Second Ashes Test, saw both sides concede 19 wides in an effort to knock off another bloke’s head.

Much like a recession is a symptom of economic torpidity, extras are merely a symptom of a broader problem, a lack of application on both sides of the ball.

It took England three innings to discover that Bazball can be played at 4.5 runs per over and still be aggressively looking to put pressure on opposition bowlers.

Ben Duckett discovered the hard way that hooking to get a hundred, with a man on the rope at fine leg, normally ends in one-way traffic: him going back to the pavilion.

In fact, Bazball should be renamed “Cavalier Ball” (and no, not after the Cleveland basketball team) with how frivolously England threw away wickets in the first innings of the second Test.

No amount of Reserve Bank fiscal tightening could rein in that discretionary spending. England has been cavalier with its declarations, cavalier with its fielding, cavalier with its batting and cavalier in its approach to the Ashes.


Bazball seems to encourage a generation of batsmen to play fast and loose with their wickets. It offers the prospect of entertainment without engagement.

Unlike Usman Khawaja, who built effective, dominant innings by respecting the good balls and dispatching the tripe. He was so sedate, he would have let a glacier win a sprint.

Usman Khawaja celebrates his century.

Usman Khawaja celebrates his century. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

I was thoroughly entertained by watching Joe Root’s innings and Ben Stokes’s 155. Scott Boland may have had 6 at the ‘G, but Joe Root had 6 at Edgbaston.

Bazball as a theory, a strategy or even a mantra to build your cricket team around provides plenty of entertainment and excitement. So far however, Bazball has failed to live up to the heights to which it was billed because of its inability to provide the small stuff, the vegetables of the cricketing world.

All is not lost though, because England need look no further than its second innings and how Duckett and Stokes batted, demonstrating what Bazball can do when given a chance and taken seriously.

If England can utilise four extra seconds to stop making excuses for its losses and start acknowledging their mistakes, Bazball has every chance of taking out this Ashes series.