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‘Bazball’ revolution puts blowtorch on Australia

England’s turnaround under the leadership of Ben Stokes has been “amazing” and left Australia and Pat Cummins with a “conundrum” ahead of next year’s Ashes series, says Ian Chappell.

The former Australian captain said he had “no idea” how far the side would improve once Stokes took over the captaincy but has seen enough since to be wary of what Pat Cummins’ side will face in England next year.

England’s 74-run defeat of Pakistan in the first Test in Rawalpindi has re-written Test cricket’s text book, with the visitors scoring 921 runs from just 136.5 overs during the match, a rate of 6.73 runs per over.

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As impressive as the batting was, Stokes has also been widely praised for the way he attacked with the ball.

Although the style of play is named ‘Bazball’ after coach Brendon McCullum, Chappell said Stokes deserves much of the credit.

“It takes balls to play this way when you’re in a situation where you might lose,” he told Wide World of Sports.

“I take my hat off to Stokes. It’s easy to say it, but when the acid is on you he’s kept doing it, that takes courage.

“I really admire him as a captain, because he keeps trying to win.”

Australia will defend the Ashes in England, beginning in June, with England seeking its first series victory over Australia since 2015.

Chappell believes the way Australia approaches the coming months will be fascinating.

“I’m sure that everybody looks at what the good teams are doing and tries to emulate them, but the question is, are you good enough?” he asked.

“As far as Australia is concerned, how does Pat Cummins look at England, and how does he go about playing against them in England next year?

“Stokes has set him a conundrum. First he has to figure out if England will play that way against Australia, and it will be harder against Australia’s better bowlers. And secondly, does Cummins want Australia to play like that, and will it work?

“You’ve really got to give Stokes marks for taking the initiative.”

Should Australia choose to adopt ‘Bazball’, Chappell says there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt Warner could play like that, although he’s getting on a bit and it’s in England, where he hasn’t had as much success,” he said.

“With Smith, you’re best to let him play the way he wants. What England have to do is get Labuschagne.

“But there’s a couple of guys who might not be that good if they’ve got to play more aggressively,” he added.

“Khawaja and Head, particularly in England conditions, if England bowl well and field well, I’m not sure they have the ability to be more aggressive and be successful.

“It’s going to be a very interesting series. If you spoke to Cummins now he’d know exactly what England are doing, and that’s why he’s such a good captain. He’ll be already forming in his own mind how they’ going to have to play against England.”

England has now won seven of its last eight Test matches, dating back to June. The sole exception was an innings and 12 run thrashing at the hands of South Africa at Lord’s.

“It went spectacularly wrong against South Africa, but they didn’t crumble,” Chappell explained.

“They came back and they won the series. That builds faith in Stokes and his method, and winning in Pakistan in difficult conditions only adds to that.

“Stokes has made it clear to everyone, including his own bokes and the opposition, that there’s not going to be a draw. They’re playing for a win from ball one.

“He’s given the team so much self-belief, what happened in Pakistan is what happens when the team believes it can happen.”

Despite the recent run of success, Chappell says there’s still room for improvement from England.

“Stokes is winning despite not having his best team. If you’ve got Jos Buttler keeping instead of Ben Foakes, you’re not playing your best team. If Jack Leach is the best spinner England has, well, then they need to do something different,” he said.

“But even with Leach, Stokes has him thinking how he’s better than I think he is.

“Stokes has empowered that team, Joe Root was no good as captain, I’ve said that plenty of times, he really shouldn’t have been appointed.

“The turnaround under Stokes is amazing,” he added.

“They were a bunch of no-hopers here last summer, and a lot of that was the fact they had no belief. I can understand that, it would be hard to have belief in Joe. It was like the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

“What Joe was doing was insanity. I thought anybody would be better than Joe, but I had no idea how much better Stokes would turn out to be.

“The improvement is remarkable.”

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