NEW England coach Trevor Bayliss has vowed to bring a typical Australian aggression to the side’s Ashes bid, promising to “fight fire with fire”.
Bayliss, from Goulburn in New South Wales, will make history in Cardiff next week by becoming the first Australian to lead England in the battle for the urn. Yesterday, at Lord’s, he named his squad for the first Investec Test on 8 July – comprising the XI who ended the series against New Zealand plus Yorkshire’s uncapped leg-spinner Adil Rashid and seamer Steven Finn – and also laid down his expectations.
Bayliss wants his charges to meet the Australian challenge head on – attacking when attacked and banishing any sense of timidity.
He said: “To be successful against Australia it’s certainly not going to be by taking a backward step or allowing the Australians just to dictate terms.
“You’ve got to get out and fight fire with fire, be positive and aggressive, and individuals have to play their own natural game.
“They have been selected to play their way and that is what’s going to be successful for them.”
There were signs that Bayliss’ message was already filtering through from afar during the ding-dong battles against Brendon McCullum’s Black Caps.
England, under the guidance of Bayliss’ number two Paul Farbrace, played unusually dynamic cricket in the drawn Test series then won both one-day and T20 rubbers with a young squad. And the 52-year-old has vowed not to let that momentum stall.
Bayliss added: “The way the game has been played over the last five or 10 years you could argue that maybe we haven’t kept up to date as some of the other teams.
“Whether you like it or not, the T20 format and the one-day format do have a bearing on the way the game is played at Test level. It’s that philosophy of being positive and aggressive.
“Being positive and aggressive is not necessarily trying to hit fours and sixes. It’s being that mental aggressiveness, thinking about rotating the strike – where are my singles? What bad balls can I hit for four? How are they trying to get me out?
“You do that, the bad ball comes along, and you hit it for four or six.”
Bayliss’ decision to include Rashid in his first Test squad is also indicative of a desire to get on the front foot.
Rashid has been spoken of as a potential Test match-winner since his teens but, at the age of 27, has yet to make his debut. He has been in squads, carried drinks and toured overseas, all without getting the chance to give the ball a rip in the middle.
That may be Rashid’s lot again in Cardiff, with Moeen Ali unequivocally reaffirmed as first-choice spinner, but Bayliss is giving serious consideration to using the pair in tandem – a tactic that previous England regimes have be reluctant to use.
“I’ve no qualms about playing two spinners at some stage,” added Bayliss. “Moeen, at the moment, is the number one spinner but, if we want to play two, we’ve got Rashid there ready to go. At some stage during this series I’d see him playing a part.”
Bayliss boasts a CV including Sheffield Shield titles with NSW, T20 success with Sydney Sixers and Kolkata Knight Riders and a World Cup final appearance while in charge of Sri Lanka. But he is a coach who prefers to empower players rather than dictate to them.
“At the top level it’s about creating a good environment,” he said. “If you look in history at the best players in the world, they’ve all been self-reliant.
“Not only are they single-minded and they know what to do off the field and how to prepare, they are able to make decisions for themselves out on the ground, rather than look to the coaching staff for an answer.”
Bayliss also made light of the suggestion he may have split loyalties. “I’m old enough that the first seven or eight years I was at school I sang God Save The Queen. I know most of the words, probably more than I do our own at the moment.”
For 1st Ashes Test v Australia, Cardiff, 8-12 July
Alastair Cook (captain)
Joe Root (vice-captain)