It seems nothing will deter them in their quest to revolutionize Test cricket and save the grand old form of the game from the advance of the franchises.
Not the change in weather which, if it stays dry at Lord’s on Wednesday, should make for much tougher batting conditions than those seen earlier this season when Bazball was born and England drove New Zealand and India to all parts.
And not a formidable South African attack that covers most seam and spin bases and should include their spearhead in Kagiso Rabada, recovering from an ankle injury, as they try to cement their place at the top of the World Testing Championship.
England captain Ben Stokes insists they will come with all weapons that fire against South Africa
England and their captain Ben Stokes, who has emerged this season as a leader of true style, substance and imagination, are unafraid to avert their mission and will come out full force again in what is a ravishing three-way game. Test series is mouth watering.
‘It doesn’t change what we’re about to do,’ said a relaxed-looking Stokes, watching the rare sight of rain fall at Lord’s. “Maybe we’ll still go out even if the conditions are tough.
‘I keep saying that. Whatever circumstances we have, we have our way of playing cricket and we stick to that. We always go out with the same mentality you’ve seen in the last four games.”
How welcome that is to hear after a six-week hiatus since the last Test, when the game looked inexorably moving towards a future where lucrative short-form domestic leagues are king and international cricket will struggle to maintain its primacy.
And how amusing the build-up of this LV= Insurance Test series has been, with South Africa getting into trouble over England’s tactics and refusing to recognize the term Bazball, even if Stokes and Brendon McCullum weren’t too keen on it to be.
Stokes says England stick to their way of playing cricket no matter the circumstances
Dean Elgar is the chief denier of South Africa’s Bazball, apparently because he feels that methods that have torn the conventional Test rulebook are somewhat disrespectful to the traditions of the largest size.
But despite the fact that the South African captain, like his coach Mark Boucher, tried to joke about his objections – pretending to offer a shot of tequila to the first journalist named Bazball – Elgar also betrayed his true feelings.
This came when he was asked last week about his squad’s beating by an England Lions team that played very much in the manner of the new seniors.
“I think those guys who played for the Lions had a lot to prove,” Elgar said of a second-rate England side who proved it by jacking up the small matter of 672 in 117 overs en route to victory with an innings and 56 runs. .
“They all had the big boys sitting upstairs looking at them and saying, ‘Now it’s our turn to show the coaches what we can do’ in an unofficial game.
“I would have liked to see what it would have been like if it had been official. I think you play a little bit differently when you play for stats.”
South Africa captain Dean Elgar has said he will stop talking about England’s new approach
Really? The last thing England are doing right now is playing for the stats. It is precisely because they are so selfless that they have done so well and players like Zak Crawley, without 50 in eight innings this season, are so firmly supported.
Stokes certainly enjoyed a Lions performance in which Harry Brook, again, and others such as Dan Lawrence and Ben Duckett made strong arguments for selection with the bat before Ollie Robinson proved both his fitness and effectiveness with the ball.
“It was great to see,” Stokes said, confirming an unchanged side, except for Ben Foakes’ return behind the stumps. “We have a way of playing and anyone trying to push for this team needs to know that.
“The Lions were able to go out and express themselves in a way that they may have always wanted to do, but didn’t feel like they could because they might get a slap on the wrist for playing from a stupid shot. You don’t get that here in our time.
“It is important that we get the message across all the way to the provincial players. When I was training in Durham we played Middlesex and I had a great chat with Mark Ramprakash (now their batting consultant). He asked me what to tell his players we want to see from them to get noticed.’
Zak Crawley (pictured) has been without 50 in eight innings for England so far this season
Buzzing or not, and how much England has already gotten under South Africa’s skin, this is the acid test of England’s evangelical renaissance.
And in a test sure to be affected by rain, it will be an investigation into Stokes’ preference to hunt and whether England can still push themselves and pressure South Africa if they go first on Wednesday.
“No, not really,” the captain insisted when asked if things would change if England got to bat.
“If we have to chase 400 in 60 overs on day five, we’ll try, but it’s the same mentality with the ball. When we have 40 overs to throw one way, we’ll do everything we can to do that.”
It’s the new normal that makes England’s test cricket so exciting these days, despite the caveats of old sticks-in-the-mud like Elgar.
And how refreshing it is to know that we’re about to get three more enticing episodes of it whether England keep winning or not.