On the eve of the first Test against South Africa, Ben Stokes claimed that England’s ultra-positive approach to the format – commonly known as ‘Bazball’ – had entered his opponents’ minds, even though the Proteas captain Dean Elgar is suing. insisting on it is as likely to lead to embarrassment as it is to glory.
Elgar had previously claimed to have “absolutely no interest in the style they played”, but in the home dressing room his words did not appear to have been taken at face value. “I guess the more you talk about something, the more it’s in your head,” Stokes said.
“The opposition seems to be talking about it a lot. We just focus on what we’re doing. At the end of the day, it’s bat versus ball, whoever plays better in a test match is more likely to win. We don’t get too deep into that, but I’m glad that Dean and the South African team keep saying they’re not interested, but also keep talking about it.
South Africa’s preparations for the series culminated in an emphatic loss to an England Lions XI who enthusiastically embraced the first-team approach, a game which delighted one side and was dismissed by the other.
“I read absolutely nothing in that warm-up game,” Elgar said on Tuesday. “It was good practice for us, and if they play like that in an official Test match and it goes pear-shaped, it’s not going to be very good for England.”
We’ll soon find out what this English side could do to South Africa, but it’s unlikely to surprise them. “It’s probably something a team has never had to plan for before, the way we approach our cricket at the moment, because it’s so new and so fresh for the Test format,” Stokes said. .
“But what I will say is they had more time to prepare than New Zealand or India because they saw what we did in four games. We won’t look at it as The focus is on us and how we’re going to play, fighting whatever they have with what we have, in our own way.
South Africa have studied England’s performance during their run of four successive victories at the start of the summer. The bottom line is that their side are stronger than those England have faced before and better prepared for whatever Brendon McCullum’s charges can throw at them.
“One of our greatest strengths as a Test team over this last period has been our awareness of adapting,” said Elgar, whose side have won seven of their last nine Tests. “I think that’s going to be a huge factor for us in this series, especially if England have a flyer. I know somewhere they’re going to have periods in the game where they’re above us, and we’re going to have to find a way to adapt to that. I think there’s been a lot of learning since these shows have played out the way they have. I think we are a smarter team and adaptability is hugely important to me.
“Everyone has a good buy-in when it comes to parking their personal belongings; to do what we need to slow down their hitter, for example. I’d like to think that from a bowling perspective, our bowlers are big, tall, fast and strong. I think we come with a lot more resources. I’m not going to criticize the opposition they played against, but I’m only speaking from a South African perspective. I think we’ve covered all the bases and ticked all the boxes in the right angle to limit those moments in the game.”
With rain forecast on Wednesday, South Africa will assess Kagiso Rabada’s conditions and fitness before naming their XI, while England change the squad that beat India at Edgbaston last month only in returning the gloves to Ben Foakes, who missed this game due to injury, and replaces Sam Billings. . After having successful fourth-inning chases in all four games so far this summer, the only potential novelty will come if they are forced to fight their way to victory.
“If we have 40 overs to eliminate a team on day five, we’ll do our best to achieve that,” Stokes said. “We won’t just stick to the normal stuff. You will see us change a lot of plans if we feel something is not going to work. We will keep the same state of mind with the ball as with the bat.
Marylebone Cricket Club announced on Tuesday that, should the Lord’s Test reach a fifth day on Sunday, all tickets would be available for a £5 donation, with the proceeds split between two charities: the Ruth Strauss Foundation and the MCC Foundation. Tickets will be available on www.lords.org from 2 p.m. Wednesday.