England captain Ben Stokes is facing criticism following a bold declaration in the first innings of the series, which resulted in disappointment for the home team. Stokes had adopted an aggressive approach known as BazBall, generating significant buzz leading up to the Ashes. Prior to the match, he had expressed fearlessness in accepting the possibility of defeat and emphasised his determination to reclaim the urn in 2023.
Will bold declaration change approach?
However, it seems that Stokes may have underestimated the consequences of his decision, as it has now garnered widespread disapproval. In a surprising move, he called back Joe Root and Ollie Robinson when the team's score stood at 393-8 after an exhilarating day of play. Root, who was unbeaten on a remarkable 118, and Robinson had just scored 20 runs in a single over bowled by Nathan Lyon. Yet, Stokes confidently signaled for Australia to face the new ball before the end of the day's play.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan raised the issue, suggesting that an additional 30 runs on the scoreboard could have made a significant difference. The decision to declare at that point has attracted scrutiny, as it potentially missed an opportunity to strengthen England's position in the match.
“Those 30 or 40 runs…” Vaughan said after the match.
“If you‘d have asked Ben Stokes this morning, ‘Would you have liked Joe to have got another 30 on that day one, you’ve now got them in the bank?’ Of course he would.
“I will guarantee at Lord’s, if they bat first and they’re 393 for 8 with 20 minutes to go, I will guarantee that they’ll carry on batting… not with Joe Root 118 not out.”
Stokes defended his play, refusing to change his game
“I thought that was a time to pounce,” Stokes said. ”I am not going to change the way I have gone about my cricket because it is the Ashes.
“Who knows? We could have got an extra 40 runs or lost two wickets in two balls. I am not a captain who gets by on what ifs.
“We saw it as an opportunity to pounce on Australia and really start day two on top.”
Fans were also up in arms about Stokes’ fateful decision on day one.
Former cricketer weigh in
Mark Butcher, a former England cricketer, joined the chorus of critics expressing disbelief at England's daring declaration. He voiced his concerns that this decision could have long-lasting consequences for the home team throughout the series. While recognizing the theatrical nature of the moment, Butcher couldn't hide his astonishment at the call made by England's captain.
“I was absolutely flabbergasted by that [declaration],” he said on the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast. “Great theatre and all the rest of it, wonderful. But how much would England have liked another 50 runs on top of their target as of right at this minute?
“Playing fast and loose with totals in the first innings when time is very much on your side in Test matches … I understand it in games where you’re trying to put time back in.
“But at that point on day one of a Test match? Wow, what a decision that is. And that could yet come back to bite England.”