England’s Bazball revolution has gone into the history books for the wrong reasons after New Zealand produced one of the greatest comebacks in Test cricket history.
Has New Zealand planted the first seed of doubt into the BazBall team stalking Australia for the Ashes, after one of the greatest wins in the history of Test cricket?
The plucky Black Caps became just the fourth team in history to win after being forced to follow on, with lion-hearted quick Neil Wagner getting England No. 11 James Anderson caught down the leg side to secure a one-run victory for the ages.
Australia’s infamous defeat at the hands of VVS Laxman and India at Kolkata in 2001 is the last time a team has lost after forcing their opponents to follow on, with Australian teams losing to England on the other two times it has happened in 1981 and 1894.
England deserve nothing but credit for the positive way they attacked what will live on as a famous Test match in Wellington, and the smiles from coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes (both kiwis) in defeat showed there were no regrets despite an agonising defeat.
However, New Zealand’s history-making triumph did prove there can be a price to pay for cavalier cricket.
England forced the game at every turn by declaring at 8-435 in the first innings, and then following the Black Caps on after the hosts were bowled out for 209.
Had they taken the more conservative approach and batted the first innings out, or set New Zealand a target – they would not have lost … but then again, would they have had time to win?
England are forging a reputation as Test cricket’s ultimate Entertainers – they play to win, but they also play to rejuvenate Test cricket and make sure no game ever stands still and that the great format never dies.
Even in dramatic, pulsating defeat, it’s still very much Australia beware. The Baz Ball juggernaut is heading your way with a billowing sail and confidence like no English team has had before.
When Ben Stokes and Joe Root were dismissed by a rampaging Wagner, and Stuart Broad followed soon after, England were almost certainly done for at eight down and still 43 runs from home.
But in a gutsy partnership between wicketkeeper Ben Foakes (35 off 57) and Jack Leach (who almost replicated his Headingley heroics against Australia with 1 not out off 31 balls), England showed they are much more than flat track front runners.
The Baz Ball juggernaut can break down on the side of the highway, refuel, and still overtake you on the highway.
England almost pulled it out of the fire, and Anderson was quite rightly asking why the penultimate ball of the match from Wagner wasn’t called a wide, which would have tied the match and given the visitors the series win in the two match series.
Next ball, Anderson was out and the Black Caps swarmed on Wagner in an epic show of raw sporting emotion.
The question is, will England be able to process and dismiss this defeat as part of Baz Ball, or will it linger in the backs of minds when big decisions need to be made at Ashes time?
England won more than they lost on day five in Wellington, because they were the drivers behind one of Test cricket’s great finishes.
But when the Ashes arrives you’re playing for sheep stations and it will be the ultimate test for an England side who – so far – have shown they’re brave enough to be prepared to lose to win.
Originally published as Cricket news: New Zealand defeats England by one run after following on