By Lawrence Booth and Nick Hoult, Bloomsbury, pp 341, £22, ISBN 9781526672087
In the previous journal I had the pleasure to review White Hot, an analysis of the development of the England white-ball teams to the exalted status of double World Champions. From the same publisher, but different writers, comes a parallel analysis of the transformation of the England Test team, from the low points of the 2021-22 Ashes series and the defeat in the Caribbean, to the memorable victories against New Zealand, South Africa and India and the series win in Pakistan only a few months later, culminating with one of the classic Ashes contests in the summer of 2023.
The popular image of Bazball is that it means T20 cricket in the five-day game. The analysis by two of cricket’s most experienced journalists delivers a much more subtle and meaningful definition…
As well as a detailed assessment of the origins and impact of Bazball, the book provides an account of the 2023 Ashes series, which ranks with 1981 and 2005 as one of the most closely-fought and exciting series in my memory, although sadly contested largely behind a paywall that limited its impact on the national consciousness. In the past, a series like this would have spawned a plethora of books, and it may yet do so; this one was published in October 2023, only three months after the series ended. While it is perhaps difficult to imagine Neville Cardus or Jack Fingleton beginning one of their books with an analysis of the strike rates of the two sides, this is nonetheless a book in that worthy tradition. As both an account of the principles that have transformed the England game, and the story of the 2023 Ashes, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Richard Lawrence (A longer version of this review will appear in The Cricket Statistician, February 2024)