England v India: Time to get carried away after historic victory

By Stephan ShemiltChief cricket writer

You don't know you have been carried away until you have been picked up and taken.

It is the British way to ensure that never happens. Something is likely to go wrong, better to not get your hopes up. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

But sport is about giving in to hope, optimism and expectation. Yes, the lows can be crushing, but they make the highs all the sweeter. Your heart can't be broken if you never loved in the first place.

The heart of English Test cricket wasn't just broken, it had been ripped out and stamped on. One win in 17 matches, beaten from Ahmedabad to Adelaide, whipped from the Gabba to Grenada.

In only five weeks, captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum have turned it all around, restoring the joy, fun and wonder to the English game.

If the 3-0 series win over New Zealand was the arrival of something new and exciting, then the chase of 378 to beat India at Edgbaston was one of England's greatest wins of all-time.

The pipe-and-slippers way in which Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow went about knocking off an England record target probably didn't do justice to the magnitude of the achievement.

Same players but much different results

What makes England's revival all the more remarkable is that it has been done with pretty much exactly the same players that played miserable cricket in the previous 18 months.

Bar Root, who has simply continued on his path towards being England's greatest batter of all-time, McCullum and Stokes have found something extra in all of their squad.

Bairstow is touching heights that angels fear to tread - his last five innings have brought 589 runs at average of 196. The Ollie Pope at number three experiment has largely worked, while Alex Lees is growing into an intimidating figure at the top of the order.

After public backing from Stokes before the Edgbaston Test, Zak Crawley went from batting like Michael McIntyre to Michael Vaughan.

In the second Test against New Zealand, spinner Jack Leach was a man out of his depth, only to take 10 wickets in the third. James Anderson and Stuart Broad are being persuaded to squeeze more out of their aging bodies and Matthew Potts, the only new face, looks like England's answer to Australian metronome Josh Hazlewood.

When asked how this has been achieved, Stokes often refers to the way the team talk in the dressing room.

"It is the language that we speak in and the mentality that we get across," said Stokes, who has urged his team be "rock stars" and "entertainers".

The power of positive thinking

It almost seems too simple, and is an idea that could be put to the test in everyday life. Perhaps I might finally be able to put stripes in the grass when I mow the lawn if I change my mentality.

Maybe Stokes and McCullum could be dropped into the cabinet room and help the government solve the cost of living crisis with the power of positive thought.

The reality is there is more to it than that, with tiny tweaks on and off the field making a big difference to England's performances.

McCullum has slimmed down the amount of backroom staff allowed in the dressing room. Practice sessions are catered to how much an individual does or doesn't want to do. The players meet later on the morning of a Test match day and the attitude to warming-up is more relaxed.

Thinking outside the box, England had Broad padded up late on the fourth day of the Edgbaston Test. If one of Root or Bairstow got out, Broad would have tried to take a chunk out of the target in rapid time. Instead of a nightwatchman, they were calling him the "nighthawk".

More noticeably, all four of England's wins this summer have come batting last. Two of those have been when Stokes has won the toss and opted to bowl first.

It is an idea that works on a couple of levels. The first is an obvious fearlessness when it comes to chasing any target, a preference for pursuing runs that has served England so well in white-ball cricket.

The second is that if a pitch is good for batting, the best time to claim wickets is early in the match - England have taken the maximum 80 available to them so far this summer.

England have now chased scores in excess of 275 on four straight occasions. What does that do to the mentality of their opponents, knowing they will have to post an astronomical target is order to be safe? It would be intriguing to see England tested by being asked to bat first.

What next for resurgent England?

Where do England go from here? Is there a limit to what can be achieved?

It is almost a shame they have to wait more than a month for their next series against a South Africa side that will arrive here wondering what might be thrown out at them.

The winter tour of Pakistan looks like a fascinating test of the 'Bazball' philosophy and next summer's Ashes series can't come soon enough.

"I would imagine there will be sides around the world looking at the way we've been playing, a little bit intimidated by what we're capable of doing," said Root.

"It can only breed more confidence if sides are wary of what we're capable of."

Maybe the Aussies won't be intimidated, but they might have taken note of England's method.

"A couple of new words we're using about our approach is about being proactive and being brave," said Australia captain Pat Cummins after they beat Sri Lanka last week.

"Failure is absolutely OK, as long as you are failing in a way you are happy to be."

It is a statement that could have come from Stokes himself.

For now, though, allow yourself to be taken in by England's intoxicating Test cricket. There will be lows along the way even if, at the moment, that feels increasingly unlikely. Until then, fly with the highs.

"It's great fun to be a part of," said Root. "It's like being a kid again."

Go on, get carried away.

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