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One year of Bazball: What is it and will it work for England in The Ashes?

England's 'Bazball' style of play has transformed the Test team over the past year, with Ben Stokes' side earning 10 wins from 12 in swashbuckling fashion; biggest challenge of all is imminent with Ashes series - live in full on Sky Sports - starting on Friday June 16

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Since Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes took charge of England, supporters have been treated to a new brand of cricket known as Bazball. Jamie Frier takes a look at its impact..

As England’s men’s Test summer begins, the Ashes are coming sharply in to view.

The mere mention of what is traditionally the greatest rivalry in cricket is usually enough to inspire excitement among the fans.

But this time, just to spice things up even more, there's a new ingredient in the mix. A bold new approach, where confidence is king and entertainment is everything.

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England bowler Stuart Broad provides an insight into the mindset of the players ahead of The Ashes

So who is bringing this brave new world into our cricket grounds and our living rooms? Sounds like the Australians, right? Wrong.

This is the new incarnation of English cricket's approach to the red-ball game - and it all started with three men: Rob Key, Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum.

A year ago, the men's Test team was floundering. A 4-0 pounding on the Ashes tour of Australia brought the issue to a head - but the rot had set in some time before.

The last 14 Tests of the Chris Silverwood-Joe Root era brought just one win - and in the entire Ashes series, England failed to score more than 300 in any innings.

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The decline often presented itself in the shape of extreme reticence to take chances, let alone set a risky victory target should the chance arise. Something had to change - and it did.

'Time to buckle up and enjoy the ride'

When Key got the chance to swap the Sky commentary box for the role of managing director of the England men's team, he made big calls quick: when Root resigned, Stokes was his pick as captain.

"He has been a leader in that dressing room for a long, long time," said Key. "Ultimately, he is the one that people have turned to a lot of the time, that people follow."

Two weeks later, the new captain had a new coach.

McCullum was the choice this time and even if few others knew what to expect, Key was confident: "I believe in Stokes and McCullum. Time to buckle up and enjoy the ride."

The new-look England got themselves off and running with a thrilling 3-0 series win over McCullum's native New Zealand - but it was the manner of the wins, as much as the outcome of the games, that made everyone take note.

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Jonny Bairstow and Root batted with the aggression and abandon of T20 cricketers - and they didn't let up when South Africa visited either.

Dean Elgar's side took up the challenge of this new approach - already dubbed 'Bazball' in reference to McCullum's nickname - and handed England a heavy defeat in the first Test at Lord's.

England's response? Just keep hitting. They responded with two big victories of their own to take the three-match series 2-1.

"I knew there was a lot of talent here, but it's better than I thought," said McCullum. "It's a thrill to help these guys perform, with big challenges ahead."

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As England prepare for this summer's Ashes Tests, Jonny Bairstow and Jimmy Anderson spoke about the mentality change under Stokes and McCullum

Entertainment continues with thriller in New Zealand

Those challenges started with a winter tour of Pakistan and a first win on that nation's soil in 22 years. With Bairstow recovering from a broken leg, the batting talents of Harry Brook and Ben Duckett came to the fore.

Along with the new boys, the veterans were loving life as well. "I don't think I've ever smiled so much on a cricket pitch in my life," said James Anderson, a few months past his 40th birthday.

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Full highlights from the fourth day of the third Test in Karachi in December as England clinched an historic 3-0 series sweep of Pakistan

After Christmas and a series clean sweep in Pakistan, McCullum and Stokes took the roadshow to the land of their birth for a two-Test series with New Zealand. Once again, entertainment was the watchword.

A brilliant England win in the first match in Mount Manganui was followed by one of the great ends to any Test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. New Zealand triumphed by a single run to level the series but no one who watched it will forget it. That seems to be the point.

"Right at the start of this series, we wanted to bring fans into it and bring relevance to the Test game," said McCullum. "I think we did that. It was a great game to be part of."

Now comes the biggest test for any England team: can they beat the Australians?

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Broad says says England 'fancy themselves' to beat Australia and regain The Ashes

Stokes showed his true spirit of adventure against this opposition at Headingley in 2019, of course and now, as captain, he gets to lead the charge over five Tests.

"I'm excited," says the man who has skippered the team to 10 wins from 12. "If you plan for negativity, that's what'll happen. We'll keep doing what's worked for us, there's no point changing."

One year on from its arrival, Bazball is part of the sporting vocabulary and a huge hit with the England fans. Just imagine what they'll make of it if it's enough to see off Australia.

Watch England's Test summer live on Sky Sports Cricket. The four-day Test against Ireland takes place at Lord's from Thursday with the Ashes series under way at Edgbaston from Friday June 16.

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