After one match of the men’s Ashes 2023, Australia are able to get the best of both worlds when it comes to Bazball. They can praise its ambitions, while England do much of the combative talking, knowing the scoreline reads 1-0 in Australia’s favour heading to Lord’s and promising there is much better to come from them than was shown at Edgbaston.
Such were the fine margins in the opening Test that any number of little moments could be looked back on as proving the difference, the last of them Ben Stokes‘ very tough missed chance with 37 runs still needed. In the end, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon carried them to a famous victory, but the batting in particular has room for improvement with the outstanding exception of Usman Khawaja and an honourable mention to Alex Carey – the only two Australians to pass fifty in the Test.
Heading the list of where there is an expectation of much greater returns is from Marnus Labuschagne and Steven Smith who made just 35 runs between them at Edgbaston. There is also a strong possibility that Mitchell Starc will replace Scott Boland, who went at nearly six-an-over.
“I really enjoy the way they [England] play, I’m not going to lie,” Labuschagne said. “As a cricket watcher watching the series prior, I’ve loved it. I think it’s exciting, it’s entertaining, it’s good to watch, but at the end of the day, we played pretty under par to what I think the standard of our team is at.
“The thought was how are they going to do it against our bowlers and they showed they can do it, but with a wicket that might have a little bit more in it [at Lord’s], what’s it going to look like? We walked away from the first Test 1-0 up and that’s a positive sign for us because I don’t think we played at our best.”
England, unsurprisingly, have promised to attack even more, with Stuart Broad the latest to proclaim the “go harder” approach to follow Ollie Robinson’s claims that Australia were “unwilling to go toe-to-toe” and Zak Crawley’s view that England will win at Lord’s by 150 runs.
The home side certainly set the tone at Edgbaston, scoring at more than five-an-over on the opening day before Stokes’ surprise declaration, but it was the extraordinary start to the fourth day, with Joe Root failing to connect to a first-ball reverse scoop and then sending Boland for a six a short while later, that was the most outlandish period of play.
However, Labuschagne viewed Root’s approach as keeping Australia in the game and he duly ran past one from Lyon for 46, to follow an unbeaten 118 on the opening day, as none of England’s batters reach fifty in the second innings.
“The way he’s batting I think is exquisite…I’m just talking about when he’s batting normally, I think he’s playing really well,” Labuschagne said. “I think from my perspective, him playing that method and those [reverse] shots are keeping us in the game.
“I use that second innings as an example. He probably had an opportunity to shut us out and take the game away from us completely. But the method and the way he was playing kept us in the game. He played an unbelievable innings, but he ended up getting 40  and if turns that into 80-plus we’re chasing 300 and that’s going to be a pretty big effort.
“So I think that’s the benefit for us the way they’re playing. They’re playing aggressive cricket and he’s doing it with a different method, which is great, but it brings in other opportunities for us. Hopefully, at some point in the series, that will keep paying off.”