What Changes Should England Make For The Fourth Test And Is Bazball Working?

England are back in the series, but can they win it?
13:04, 10 Jul 2023

England’s narrow Third Test win over Australia felt like it came about more via luck than judgement. Mother Nature provided the perfect conditions at the perfect time for Brendon McCullum’s outfit, and the Aussies made enough mistakes in the field to see England over the line. 

That may seem pessimistic after the hosts kept the Ashes alive, but heading into the Fourth Test, another must-win encounter, something has to change. Despite a decent start at the tail end of day three from the openers, England soon fell apart. Ben Duckett got out LBW, and the Moeen Ali experiment, chucking him up the order to three didn’t work, as he was bowled for just five.

Both of those dismissals were actually more understandable than the ones that followed. Zak Crawley was out having followed up a four with a swipe at a ball that was wide of his off stump. Playing shots you don’t have to is a trademark of Bazball, yet it was this cavalier attitude that got England into danger when they were in a position of total control. 


Joe Root’s dismissal was naive, Ben Stokes was poor by his own standards and Jonny Bairstow took a giant swing at a Mitchell Starc delivery, diverting the ball onto his own stumps in the process. The Bairstow issue is one that has lingered for the entire series. 

He’s been way below par with the gloves, especially when you compare his performances to Alex Carey’s for Australia. We’ve seen too many missed catches and a lack of agility behind the stumps, and Bairstow’s bravery with the bat has been completely absent. He’s made just 141 runs across six innings so far, and as a result his position in the team has to come into question, especially when England have such a handy replacement in Ben Foakes waiting in the wings. 

Any logic would dictate that, after three poor performances, Foakes would come in for Bairstow. But Bazball doesn’t do logic. Sticking with Bairstow is the likely outcome, partly due to his personality, but also because Ben Stokes and McCullum share a certain level of stubbornness. This is the way we play. Like it or lump it. 


What must be considered is the fact that no team has really played like this in the history of Test cricket. It’s a sport played with such patience and care, and recklessness such as this tends to backfire, as we have seen so far in this series. On top of which, England have had almost all the breaks so far. The weather, apart from half an hour at Edgbaston, has benefited them at every turn. Australia have only been able to use their most dangerous spin bowler, Nathan Lyon, for one Test and the visitors have coped admirably with a vocal home crowd winding them up at every turn. 

The team selection for Old Trafford will be intriguing. Mark Wood and Chris Woakes should retain their places after wonderful performances with bat and ball, which means there is likely to be no room for Jimmy Anderson once again. Josh Tongue performed well last time out and was unfortunate to lose his place so could return, while the issue of who plays at three, if it is agreed that Harry Brook has to bat at five, has to be solved. 

Moeen Ali’s move up the order could be considered a success given that England won, but his individual score of five won’t do anything to strengthen his position. However, with Ollie Pope out for the series following his shoulder injury, there are only a couple of options. You can stick with Moeen, or take the gloves off Bairstow and let him focus on batting higher up the order, while bringing Foakes into the team. 

For the Old Trafford Test, England have to be more considered. Even the standout batsman at Headingley, Harry Brook, saw his 75 come to an end prematurely after he chased another boundary. And this was when the home side had an unlimited amount of time to chase down a perfectly achievable total. 

The errors of Bairstow and co have to be eradicated, but the home side must also play with more nous. You don’t have to hit every ball in Test match cricket. If England realise that, the greatest comeback in Ashes history might just be on. 

*18+ | Be Gamble Aware | Odds Subject to Change

England are 4/1 to win the Ashes*
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