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England’s Stokes glad to see South Africa wade into ‘Bazball’ debate

LONDON (AFP) – Ben Stokes said yesterday he was happy to hear South Africa players talking about England’s new swashbuckling “Bazball” approach ahead of the first Test at Lord’s even as he has distanced himself from the hype.

Speaking last week, South Africa captain Dean Elgar said he had “absolutely no interest” in England’s rebooted style, which has delivered four wins out of four so far under the new leadership team of skipper Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum.

“Bazball” is a reference to McCullum’s nickname and Elgar also suggested he was sceptical about how successful it would be in the long term in the five-day format.

Stokes, speaking on the eve of the first Test of the three-match series, noted that the issue had come up in the Proteas’ camp.

“The opposition seem to be doing a lot of talking about it at the moment – we don’t really speak about it that much,” said the all-rounder. “We just concentrate on what we do.

England’s captain Ben Stokes arrives for a practice session at Lord’s cricket ground in London. PHOTO: AFP

“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.

“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 fifth Test at Edgbaston last month, recalling fit-again wicketkeeper Ben Foakes following a bout of Covid-19 in place of stand-in gloveman Sam Billings.

“It was definitely quite an easy decision based on our previous four performances,” said Stokes.

“Foakesy is the best wicketkeeper in the world. 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.” England’s attack will again be led by their all-time leading Test wicket-taker James Anderson, still going strong at the age of 40.

“That’s phenomenal. He’s got the label ‘The freak’, to be able to do what he does at that age,” Stokes said.

“I was shouting at him at fielding the other day, like shouting ‘40’ at him and he didn’t really like it. But I think he’s an unbelievable ambassador for the game and also an ambassador for fast bowlers in the future – for them to look at someone at 40, to say he is still one of the best in the world.”

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