England captain Ben Stokes is hoping for fast and flat wickets for the Ashes series against Australia in a signal the allrounder is keen to showcase the team's new 'Bazball' aggression. Australia retained the Ashes in 2021/22 with an emphatic 4-0 victory at home against an England outfit low on morale.
However, England has seen a resurgence under former New Zealand captain Brendan McCullum's coaching. The nation has coined the term 'Bazzball' to reflect the aggressive and exciting style of cricket played under Stokes and McCullum.
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And Stokes is confident England can reclaim the Ashes urn and put on a performance if the curators provide the right wicket to suit their style of play. Stokes said the word has gone out to Edgbaston, Lord's, Old Trafford, Headingley and The Oval about the types of pitches that will allow his team to play the all-out attacking style.
"We've been very clear with the groundstaff around England about what type of wickets we want and they've been very responsive to us, which is good," Stokes said on Sky Sports. "We want fast, flat wickets. We want to go out there and score quickly.
"I'm smiling because I'm looking forward to it. There's no point changing just because we're coming into an Ashes series. Every player knows the Ashes is where everything ramps up a bit - pressure, exposure, all kinds of stuff - but we'll just keep sticking to what we do."
While Stokes has called for pitches that will help their batters put on the devastating display witnessed against India and England in the last year, Australia won't be too worried. While the swinging Duke ball has always been a problem for the Aussie batters, the No.1 team in the world maintains the best quick attack in the world and the likes of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood would relish the quicker conditions.
England's aggressive style has also backfired following the series draw against New Zealand. England lost the series decider in Wellington by one run having declared their first innings and enforced the follow-on.
Stokes' men could have won the series and settled for a draw against the Black Caps, but pursued victory at their own detriment. However, Stokes said the team wouldn't change their aggressive approach.
"Hold me to it. Every game I play this summer will be to produce a result," he said. "I'm not going to change anything just because it's the Ashes. I'm not going to change for anything or any situation, because then I'm not being true to myself and what I've done over the last year."
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Stokes missed a game for the Chennai Super Kings last week to rest up due to his ongoing knee concerns. But in good signs for England fans, Stokes returned to bowling for the Kings in the IPL.
While Stokes is taking part in the IPL, pace sensation Jofra Archer's fitness remains a concern. The fitness levels of Archer will continue to attract attention in the coming weeks, with Stokes desperate to have his speed - as well as that of Mark Wood - as part of a wider Ashes armoury.
"Having the option of someone who can bowl above 90mph (145kph) is something any captain wants," he said. Test matches can be hard and gruelling on bodies and who knows what type of conditions we might be up against game to game?
We might feel like high-end pace is something we want throughout the series, we might feel like it's not what we need in every game. But having options is something I want." Remarkably, James Anderson will take part in the series, four years after limping out of his last home Ashes on the first morning of the first Test.
The 40-year-old swing master is due to make his first appearance of the season for Lancashire against Essex this week, having missed the opening round of the County Championship. Australia will play the ICC Test Championship final against India on 7 June, before the Ashes gets underway.
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