What has been the impact of Bazball?

What has been the impact of Bazball?


In amongst all the chat about the effects of Bazball, I think there has been relatively little actual statistical analysis of how impactful it has been for England and their batters (I have not considered bowling in any great detail here as there hasn’t been much change in England’s bowling style or efficacy).

In particular, I wanted to look at the improvement on the ‘base level’ of the England team. It is unquestionable that England were in a terrible run of form before Baz took over, famously winning 1 in 18 test matches. However, that run did include away series in Australia and India (traditionally England’s hardest tests by far) and a home series against India (their second hardest home series) which totalled 13 of those 18 games. The other games in what I am calling the Bad Run were against New Zealand at home and West Indies away. My main point I want to look at is whether Bazball is actually a better way of batting for this England side, or whether it benefits firstly, comparison with one of the weakest periods of English cricket on record and secondly, playing a much friendlier schedule than the pre-Bazball run.

First, I will look at the runs per wicket and runs per over for Bazball compared to previous England performance.

Then I will look at the performance of individual players pre and post Bazball and also pre the Bad Run and post Bazball.

Runs per over

Firstly I wanted to look at whether the run rate had actually increased and to what extent. Looking at the graph below plotting England’s run rate from 1 Jan 2015 to date, it is clear that there was a sharp increase in run rate at the time of the change in captaincy and approach. It is also that there had a gradual decrease in run rate during Root’s captaincy.

10 point moving average of run rate for England since 1 Jan 2015

Looking at the graph below, it is also apparent that there have been different phases even during Bazball. The run rate peaked in Pakistan before dropping against Australia and India as would be expected (with a peak for the rained out match in the Ashes).

10 point moving average of runs per over since Bazball

Runs per wicket

The above was obvious, however, what has been less well studied is whether there has been an increase in runs per wicket since Bazball. Based on the below graph, it is clear that there was a significant increase in runs per wicket during “peak Bazball” (Summer 2022 and the Pakistan tour), however, this has significantly dropped off since playing Australia and India.

10 point moving average of runs per wicket since 1 Jan 2015

Player analysis

Below is a table of the batting average of each player that played for England before Bazball and their record after Bazball and the difference. I have excluded the Ireland test from this analysis as the Bazball sample is already small and Ollie Pope and Ben Duckett racking up runs against bowlers who are not up to test standard skews the purpose of the analysis.

From the below, excluding movements in bowlers averages, it is clear that the key beneficiary of Bazball is Jonny Bairstow, with an average 14 runs higher than his significant pre-Bazball record. Both Duckett and Billings have significant increases, but there pre-Bazball records were both very small samples (Duckett playing a sole tour of Bangladesh and part of a tour of India in 2016 when a very different player).

The other beneficiaries are the ones you would expect – Pope increasing his average by 9.53, Crawley by almost 6.

For England’s two best batsman, Stokes and Root, there is no significant difference, but no significant fall in average either.

Batting average before and after Bazball

Player analysis excluding the Bad Run

I have also looked at the performance of the players before the Bad Run and post Bazball to try and capture whether Bazball has actually improved performance from their base level, rather than just in comparison with the Bad Run.

Looking at this table, again it is clear that the main beneficiary is Bairstow. Excluding the bowlers, the other batsman are performing at the same level or worse.

It is also worth noting that, in general, apart from bowling all-rounder Mark Wood, the bowlers are performing noticeably worse under the new approach with Woakes, Leach, Broad and Anderson averages all dropping.

Batting average before the Bad Run and after Bazball

Conclusions

Peak-Bazball (Summer 2022 and the Pakistan tour) was definitely an improvement on the English teams baseline batting performance, even before the Bad Run. However, conditions for Bazball could not really have been better than during this period. During the early period of Summer 2022, there were well publicised problems with the Duke ball that made them go very soft after 20 overs or so (I think this is evidenced in the New Zealand and India matches, were in pretty much every match, the majority of the scoring came from 4,5, 6 and 7 in the batting order). This meant that the aggressive approach of Bazball during this easy batting period was well justified. Once the balls had been somewhat changed (against South Africa later that year) batting performance was more in line with normal expectations. The pitches in Pakistan also were perfect for the Bazball style, allowing quick scoring to force a result on flat surfaces. Since then, the results have been less clear and England appear to be batting more at their normal level. However, it has not made the England batting significantly worse. Bairstow – The major batter who has improved is Bairstow. In Summer 2022, he was almost unplayable in a good way. Now he seems almost unplayable in a bad way. Obviously it is not possible to tell why, but my opinion would be that the soft balls in that New Zealand series (and some average bowling) played to his strengths. The ball didn’t deviate off the pitch and he could swing through the line. He also had a similar run of form in 2016. Notwithstanding the above, Bairstow is the one Bazballer who has unquestionably performed better since this new style was introduced. There is a major point which it is not possible to consider here and that is the introduction of new players and how they have fared during Bazball. I would argue that (apart from Bairstow) the main factor in England’s improvement has been Harry Brook and Ben Duckett. Whether they are performing at the level they are because of Bazball, or just because they are better batters than the previous players England had, it is not possible to tell from the data. Another major point is that Bazball took over after a tour of India and Australia. These are typically the tours where English cricket goes to die. England pretty much wins all their home series against other test nations, and if they don’t it is a major upset. Therefore, the next two matches in the India test series will be informative as to whether this is actually a long term improvement or a product of PR, a friendly schedule and helpful outside conditions. Overall, it is still too soon to tell if the Bazball approach to batting is superior to the previous approach of the England team, but the signs are that the returns, after peak-Bazball in Summer 2022 and the Pakistan tour, are pretty much the same as they were before the Bad Run excluding the addition of new players.



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