Ashes 2015: Trevor Bayliss instils growing belief into England

It was Bayliss you gave thanks to when England’s second innings delivered something beautiful

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Had Trevor Bayliss been appointed to lead the England football team, it would be common knowledge by now that a mere four years ago he was forced to embark on a career as an estate agent after Australian cricket offered no work for him. And that his uncomplicated methods include such little time for modern excesses of data that he was the only  candidate not to make a PowerPoint presentation when later interviewed for a job by New South Wales.

Nobody knows whether the bespectacled Bayliss reads Stefan Zweig novellas like Roy Hodgson, and other pointless details which belong to the Football Association hothouse, yet Bayliss is the man who occupies a vastly more significant place on the national sporting landscape than those who have been filling football’s breathlessly empty summer weeks. He will be happy with that.

To have observed the England players’ warm-ups on the sunny outfield these past three days – Bayliss in the background, under his sun hat on the outfield, perusing from a distance and leaving the squad to their business – has provided a vivid measure of his calm, unobtrusive ways. “The coaches have had their time; had their chance of playing the game,” he said in a rare and revealing interview with Sky’s Ian Ward, broadcast on Wednesday. “These players are the custodians of the game now and they must have their say.”

The players are giving thanks for that after months of Peter Moores on their shoulders, carrying clipboards. Yet it is Bayliss who has seized upon the wisdom of his assistant Paul Farbrace, who suggested earlier this summer that England might succeed in a new, bolder form of self-expression on the cricket field.

The significance of Farbrace’s contribution to the spirit of new England should not be underestimated, yet it was Bayliss you gave thanks for it yesterday when the defining third innings of the Test match began to deliver something beautiful: a self-assurance among these England players that they could take a 122- run lead into a second innings, become destabilised at 22 for 2 and still know that they could attack Australia. Not even the loss of three wickets for nine runs as the skies clouded over an hour before the close could take that away.

Adam Lyth’s 37 will only ever be a footnote to this summer and he should have known better than to reach into the bowler’s footmarks for Nathan Lyon’s drifted ball which brought his day to an end. Yet the 28 runs he collected off  13 balls on the way offered some of the most emphatic evidence yet that the attitude of the new England belongs to the Ashes, too.

 Ian Bell delivered the spirit of the age in his 89-ball 60, too, emblematically living and dying by the sword as he found his off stump knocked back immediately after smashing a drive over extra cover for four.

But Bayliss has helped effect aggression in other ways too. Encouraging Moeen Ali to vary his pace in the full knowledge that Australia would try to attack him (“He is quite big on me mixing my pace and bowling variations,” Ali said of Bayliss, having collecting Michael Clarke and Steve Smith’s wickets on Thursday). Suggesting the line of attack that made a mockery of the No 1 billing assigned to Smith, whom Bayliss developed in Sydney.

It is an ice-cold aggression that this 52-year-old wants, though, because the characteristic they all relate about him at New South Wales is his equanimity. “He remains level at all times,” said one. For his own part, Bayliss will claim that the cricket England play is driven by pragmatism, drawing on the personnel available, rather his own philosophies. “A lot of [the [philosophy] will be brought by the type of player [Alastair Cook] has got underneath him and how they actually play,” Bayliss told Ward.

Yes, it was because of that buccaneering trio with whom they are blessed – Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Moheen  – that Farbrace could put it to Bayliss that England should play this way. Root’s accumulation of yesterday afternoon’s second 89-ball 60 – the punched cover drive which brought his half-century being one of the defining moments – was another step on his own extraordinary road. Since returning to the side last summer after his disappointing tour of Australia, Root has scored 1,512 runs at an average of 88.9.

For others, the journey into the new world seems more complicated. Cook belongs to what now feels like the old era of Ashes cricket. No shame in that – and though he hinted here on Tuesday lunchtime at a desire to cross into the new one, the attacking shots which have earned his dismissals, for 20 and 12, suggest that he should not force things.

There will be certainly be no demands from Bayliss. “I’m not going to say he must do something, as that may be totally out of character,” he shot back to Ward’s suggestion that he might press Cook to be more aggressive. “It would not be ‘what you’ve got to do...’ It would be: ‘what do you think about this..?” [One] of my philosophies – and it’s a little bit old style – is that I just see my job as giving [Cook] some options.”

England’s vivid five-hour second innings, setting Australia 412 to win, showed how the summer will literally be hit and miss for Bayliss’s new side and that five-day Tests may be rare. But it has been the week when the man whose salary requests when the England and Wales Cricket Board came calling were characteristically uncomplicated – “make my 400,000 a year Australian dollars into 400,000 pounds” – has left his mark.

The concourses emptied as Lyth and Bell set about their flaying and remained that way as Mark Wood – a bowler with a batting average of 20 in first-class cricket – reverse swept Nathan Lyon for four. “Oh England we love you,” sang the people. They wanted to be out there, in their seats, observing at first hand the new world of English Ashes cricket.

Comments