South Africa captain Dean Elgar said yesterday he was fed up with discussing England’s new swashbuckling ‘Bazball’ approach to Test cricket on the eve of their series opener at Lord’s.
England have won all four of their Tests under a new leadership pairing of skipper Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum.
McCullum’s nickname is behind a ‘Bazball’ tag that has become shorthand for an aggressive style of playing the five-day game.
That 100 percent record includes a 3-0 series sweep over world champions New Zealand, with England hunting down challenging targets on each occasion.
Stokes’s men then made light of a seemingly stiff target of 378 in the Covid-delayed fifth Test against India at Edgbaston, romping to victory by seven wickets.
But South Africa – top of the World Test Championship table – will be a tough proposition for England in the three-match series starting today.
Opening batsman Elgar is confident the Proteas’ pace attack can cut high-flying England down to size.
“With all due respect I am really not going to entertain that (Bazball) anymore,” Elgar said at Lord’s yesterday.
“We have chatted about it long and hard. I just want to crack on with the cricket. I think the game deserves that respect and mud-slinging is now a thing of the past for me.”
Elgar, who has overseen seven wins from nine matches since becoming South Africa’s permanent red-ball skipper, accepts there may be times when the tourists are on the defensive but he believes they have the resources to fight back.
“I would like to think from a bowling point of view, our bowlers are big, tall, fast and strong buggers and we have ticked the boxes in regards to the spin department.”
Elgar tried to put England’s run-chases into perspective by saying the conditions in those matches were “pretty nice” for batting.
But he did not underestimate the scale of the tourists’ task.
“It might be hard work for us but this is what we are here to do,” he said.
“We are not here to play soft-natured cricket. We want it hard and really tough and hopefully the results go our way.”
South Africa conceded a mammoth 672 runs during an innings defeat by the second-string England Lions at Canterbury last week but an unconcerned Elgar said he read nothing into the warm-up game.
“If they come out playing like that in an official Test match and it goes pear-shaped, that will not look very good for England.”
Stokes, who gave his pre-match press conference at Lord’s before Elgar, said he was happy to hear the South Africans talk about England’s new attacking approach.
“The opposition seem to be doing a lot of talking about it (Bazball) at the moment – we don’t really speak about it that much,” he said. “We don’t dive into it too much, but I’m happy for Dean and the South Africa team to say they’re not interested and then keep talking about it,” the all-rounder added. “We’ve got a style of play, they’ve got a style of play. At the end of the day it’s bat against ball and whoever plays best over a Test match is more than likely to win.”
England have made just one change to the team that beat India in the postponed Test last month, recalling fit-again wicketkeeper Ben Foakes following a bout of Covid-19 in place of stand-in gloveman Sam Billings.
“Foakesy is the best wicketkeeper in the world,” said Stokes. “To have world-class quality behind the stumps is almost like a pillow, knowing that you’ve got someone with his skill level behind there.”
South Africa still have a doubt over fast bowler Kagiso Rabada, who has been struggling with an ankle injury.
“I think KG (Rabada) is very close to being fully fit for this Test,” said Elgar. “He has had a really good few days so it is looking pretty good for us.”
Most of the England Test squad have been playing white ball formats since their last victory over India in early July and Stokes hopes they can quickly slip back into gear in the longer format.
“It has felt like we’ve been a really long time away from each other – obviously there has been a lot of different cricket, different formats played – so there is a real excitement for me to get back in there, see everybody, and reminding everybody about what we’ve achieved and sticking to our guns,” he said.
“It’s about making sure that five-week period doesn’t mean we’ve lost our venom. It would be easy to have so long away to almost forget the place we managed to find ourselves in.”
South Africa’s Dean Elgar addresses the media at Lord’s Cricket Ground, London yesterday. Right: England captain Ben Stokes during practice. (Reuters)