Michael Clarke has slapped down reports that England will look to shorten the boundaries for all five Test matches of the Ashes starting next month, in a bid to utilise their hugely popular 'Baz-ball' approach. England have been playing an up-tempo, free-flowing brand of cricket over the last 12 months under new coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes.
Named after 'Baz' McCullum, 'Baz-ball' has seen England score at a much higher run-rate, while also playing for outright victories when they would have settled for draws in the past. But the England side are reportedly looking at new ways to fully utilise 'Baz-ball' during the home Ashes series against Australia.
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According to The Times in the UK, England have inquired about bringing in the boundaries at the five Ashes venues in a bid to make the playing field smaller and produce more sixes. The shortest boundary at the five Ashes venues is just 60 metres at Edgbaston - which will host the first Test on June 16.
England's grounds are already much smaller than those in Australia, with the MCG boasting an 84-metre boundary. According to ICC regulations, boundaries can be no shorter than 59 metres, and can't be more than 10 yards (nine metres) away from where the stands start.
If England have their way, we might be seeing a number of 59-metre boundaries throughout the series. But according to former Aussie captain Clarke, the move has the potential to backfire on England.
Discussing the reports on Sky Sports radio on Monday, Clarke said he doesn't see what benefit it would have considering Australia would get to use the shorter boundaries to their advantage as well. “What a load of junk,” Clarke said.
“Australian grounds are twice the size of England grounds anyway. That’s why there’s less sixes from the Australian players. Bat at the MCG you’ve got 90-metre boundaries, bat in England you’ve got 60-metre boundaries. Who cares? Both teams have got to bat.”
Since May of last year, England have hit the most sixes in Test cricket with 86, while Australia have only hit 32. India (58), New Zealand (56), Sri Lanka (56), Pakistan (38) and the West Indies (37) have all hit more than the Aussies.
Australia will be all-too familiar with the size of the boundaries at Headingley in Leeds, where Ben Stokes produced a famous knock to win the third Ashes Test in 2019. Stokes made 135 not out on the final day as England won an absolute thriller, with a number of sixes just clearing Australian fielders in the outfield. One of the boundaries at Headingley is only about 66 metres, however they might be shorter by the time the third Test rolls around this time.
Ben Stokes doesn't want any draws in the Ashes
Speaking last month, Stokes said he could guarantee there would be no draws in this year's series, calling for fast and flat wickets that would promote scoring. "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.
"Hold me to it - every game I play this summer will be to produce a result. 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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