If South Africa go on the defensive against ‘Bazball’, England will blow them away – The Telegraph

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Dean Elgar’s comments about England’s new style of playing Tests mirrored those of many who have played a lot of international cricket.

He warned aggression will only go so far and could have left England with “egg on their faces” had New Zealand been a bit better earlier this summer. But he was speaking before his side were pasted at 5.74 an over by the England Lions and now he knows what lies in store.

Having seen this England side play to that level for four Tests, and the Lions against South Africa, it is clear they have committed to this method. South Africa now have to come up with a plan to play against it. They cannot go on the defensive with ball in hand, sit back and wait for England to implode.

If England bat for 80 overs they make more than 350. South Africa have to bowl them out within 60 overs. Simple as that. Having boundary riders is okay but it creates massive gaps like it did at Edgbaston when India were in the field for the run chase.

It allowed a partnership to develop, but if you are taking wickets don’t worry about being hit for boundaries. Make sure you have fielders in the right position to create chances. You can always go back on the defensive later but against aggressive teams you have to be brave in setting fields correctly.

I always believe that when you play against attacking teams you have to attack them, too. Play them at their own game because there are vulnerabilities. It will be interesting to see if South Africa are positive enough to do that.

We all know there will be bumps in the road for England, but I don’t think it will be at home with the Duke balls they are using this year.

In Pakistan this winter it could happen and maybe against Australia next year because this style of cricket does bring the opposition into the game. But you have to be brave in taking England on.

England will score quickly so South Africa have to bring the spinner into play with clever field sets and dangle the carrot. If India had played Ravi Ashwin at Edgbaston they would have won. Simon Harmer could do a similar thing with his pace, flight and guile. It will spin in these hot conditions and there are a few left-handers in the England order as well for him to bowl at.

It is obvious how England will continue to play when the Lions score so quickly and Ben Stokes praises them on social media by writing ‘whoosh’.




England Lions played attacking cricket against South Africa


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In four Tests, the combination at the top of England’s leadership have performed a role reversal and I have not seen any team play that well for four games for a very long time. For years we watched the one-day team sat on the sofa and then peered nervously from behind the curtains when the Test side was playing. Now it is almost the other way around.

It is exciting that the Tests are restarting on Wednesday. We are in the heart of the Hundred and on the back of white-ball series but it is the Tests that are getting everyone interested and Ben and Brendon McCullum deserve a huge amount of credit for bringing this joy back to Test cricket. 

Ben and Baz said they want to save Test cricket. If more England teams want to play like England they will do that. The cynics will say there is more to Test match cricket but the new generation want to see this style. Modern players are so accustomed to scoring at five an over. In my time, five an over in one-day cricket was a lot. But 6.3 to 7 an over is the normal now so they are just decreasing it slightly when they play Test cricket. Our mindset was defence, see off the new ball and play for your off-stump. Now it is just to go out and score quickly.  

On the bowling front, I expect Stuart Broad and James Anderson to play this week but Ollie Robinson is a high-class bowler and England have to get him back in somehow. How long have Broad and Anderson got left? And they are not going to play all three Tests against South Africa. 

What is very clear is Matt Potts plays and Jack Leach. Robinson will play the last two Tests. He has had his difficulties but he is a class bowler who will be around for a long time.




Ollie Robinson (right) looks fitter and more dangerous


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His record in Australia was good – 11 wickets at 25 – but it ended badly in Hobart when he pulled up injured and was bowled, backing to leg at the end of the match. It was a poor look but not many seamers have gone to Australia and come back with those kinds of numbers on their first trip.

In Robinson, England have a bowler who will not hit 90mph, but get him fit enough to bowl 18-20 overs at 82mph and he will be a massive threat. If he drops down to 78mph then he is not quick enough but, with his skill, 82mph is enough. 

In this country we write people off far too quickly. He was seen as a naughty lad after he got into trouble over his tweets, his mentality was questioned because of his fitness issues and all of a sudden he became the focal point of England’s Ashes failure, even though he did okay. 

McCullum will be good for Robinson. He will be relaxed and make it a joyful environment but will also demand Robinson bowls quicker for longer. He will make sure he bowls with intensity because he will say, ‘if you don’t, you’re out’. Simple as that.

Perhaps this little breather from England will have done him good, too. Sometimes you need a little break away from the team and to see them do well without you. The best thing for Ollie Robinson is he knows England can win without him. You need that leveller as a cricketer.

Meet the South Africa dangermen

Kagiso Rabada

He is up there with Jasprit Bumrah and Pat Cummins as the best Test bowlers in the world. He can bowl an unplayable ball, rough a batsman up and bowl variations. Mr Reliable. England will go after him which will open up opportunities for him.

Dean Elgar

The skipper. He is a bit like Justin Langer – a nuggety fighter and scrapper. If I’m picking a Test team I want an Elgar-style opener. He will see off a moving ball and if it gets nasty out there you know he is not going to shirk away. His team are on the up and he has managed to get them playing in tough times off the field.

Marco Jansen

Big left-armer. The new ball will be so important. After 35 overs it was flat against India and New Zealand. Lord’s can be intimidating for a player but the slope can help left-armers if he gets it right. He could make inroads from either end. 

Simon Harmer

I think they have to go with him over Keshav Maharaj. England will target Maharaj. Harmer has subtle guile and knows all the England players. He will not be intimidated by Bazball. He has a fired-in yorker that can be dangerous if they try and sweep or reverse him.

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