Ben Stokes says 'Bazball' has got inside South Africa's heads

·5-min read
England's Ben Stokes with head coach Brendon McCullum during a nets session at Lord's Cricket Ground, London - PA
England's Ben Stokes with head coach Brendon McCullum during a nets session at Lord's Cricket Ground, London - PA

Ben Stokes believes England’s aggressive approach has already got into the heads of South Africa as Dean Elgar warned that England’s tactics could go “pear shaped”.

Stokes vowed not to change the approach that brought England four consecutive victories this summer, after an abject run of one win in their previous 17 Tests. Elgar, South Africa’s captain, recently said that England’s approach could lead to “egg on their faces”, and reiterated his concerns ahead of the opening Test at Lord’s.

“If they come out playing like that in an official Test match and it goes pear shaped, that’s not going to look very good for England,” Elgar said, after initially saying that he did not want to engage in any “mud-slinging” about his opponents' tactics.

“I guess the more you talk about something the more it is in your head - I will ask Dean one day,” Stokes said. “I don’t know if worried is the right word. It’s probably something a team has never had to plan for before, the way we are approaching our cricket at the moment, because it’s so new and so fresh to the Test format.

“The opposition seem to be doing a lot of talking at the moment about it. We don’t really speak about it that much. We just concentrate on what we do. We’ve got a style of play, they’ve got a style of play.

"But what I will say is they [South Africa] have had more time to prepare than New Zealand or India have, because they’ve seen what we’ve done in four games. They might have more ideas as to how to stop Rooty or Jonny when they get going.

“At the end of the day, it’s bat against ball, whoever plays best over a Test match is more than likely to win. But we don’t dive into it too much, but happy for Dean and the South African team to keep saying they’re not interested but then also keep talking about it.”

As expected, England only made one change from the team who defeated India at Edgbaston in July, with the fit again wicketkeeper Ben Foakes slotting in for Sam Billings. Ollie Robinson, who impressed in the England Lions victory over South Africa at Canterbury last week, has a strong chance of winning a recall in the second Test, at Old Trafford, next week. Stokes also confirmed that he will be fit to play a full part with the ball.

Robinson took five wickets in England Lions' match against South Africa last week - GETTY IMAGES
Robinson took five wickets in England Lions' match against South Africa last week - GETTY IMAGES

South Africa expect that Kagiso Rabada, their star fast bowler, will be fit. They are likely to field a five-man bowling attack, with Marco Jansen at No 7.

Stokes emphasised that England will continue to play in the same adventurous way as they have embraced all summer, telling players not to change their approach even if conditions are less batting-friendly.

“It doesn’t change what we’re going to do. We might go out and whack it everywhere if it is hard conditions. You know, who knows? That’s what I keep saying, no matter what conditions we have we’ve got our way of playing cricket and we’re going to stick to that, and we’ll always go out with the same mindset that you’ve seen over the last four games.

“For us it’s just going out there and continuing with the attitude and the mindset you’ve seen from the first four games of the summer,” he said. “If we play to the standard that we have done over the last four Test matches, we know we are going to give ourselves a great opportunity of winning the game.

“When we get together as a group we have our environment, our way of playing and getting that message across to everyone that we are back in this dressing room with our way of playing and thinking about the game.”

England’s victories this summer have all come while batting second, chasing down targets of in excess of 270 on each occasion. But Stokes said that he had no concerns about what would happen if the side batted first, as he urged the side to continue to enjoy their cricket.

“If we have to chase down 400 in 60 overs on day five we’ll try and do it. But it’s the same mindset with the ball. If we’ve got 40 overs to bowl a team out on day five we’ll be doing everything that we can to do that. We won’t just stick to the normal things. You’ll see us changing a lot of plans if we feel like something isn’t going to work. So we’ll keep the same mindset with the ball as with the bat.

“You have nerves because you care. You have that fear because you obviously want to perform, and if you don’t perform you’re letting your team down. If you don’t have those feelings, you obviously don’t care. So rather than let it sit on top of you and dictate how you go out and play, just embrace those feelings and understand that that’s what it’s like at the top and just enjoy every moment that you have because you never know when that’s gone.”