Bazball, rain or shine, was the message from England’s assistant coach Paul Collingwood, after a whirlwind first day at Edgbaston where the initiative swung from England to India, powered by a century from the meteoric Rishabh Pant.
“Today was a great day,” Collingwood said after India closed on 338 for seven, quite the recovery from 98 for five, in the hosts’ fourth Test under Brendon McCullum. “I don’t feel as if our backs were against the wall for too long. I think the batsmen should be excited about batting on that wicket. It will be a great result if we keep them down to 360, 370.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say anything went wrong. What we’ve found in the three games against New Zealand is that once the ball goes quite soft after 30 or 40 overs it can be very difficult to take wickets … we were unable to get the ball to do anything off the straight, and there was some amazing strokeplay.
“I take my hat off to the way that Pant played. When you play against world-class players, they can do world-class things. And today he had his day.”
Pant’s fifth Test century was an audacious mix of technique and invention, from a glorious four through midwicket, tapped as if he was breaking the top of a boiled egg, to swivelled falling over hook shots. He and Ravindra Jadeja put on a thrilling 222 in just less than 40 overs for sixth wicket.
“Pant came out to play a bit of Bazball, as everyone keeps calling it,” said Collingwood. “When you have a bit of moisture in the pitch early on, you have a chance to take early wickets, which is what we did. We’re going against the grain of much of the cricket that’s been played over the last 100 years … We are trying to play as positive as possible, and play entertaining cricket. Ben [Stokes] is not going to take a backwards step.”
And were the England balcony and McCullum, the architect of the new red-ball gung-ho, able to admire what was happening despite being on the wrong end of it? “[McCullum] said right from the start about the bigger picture of Test cricket and that for it to survive, we’ve got to make it much more entertaining, and today’s cricket was entertaining. There were wickets, there were runs, there were great catches. When you’re watching someone as entertaining as Pant, you’ve got to applaud an innings like that.”