Was this the #BazBallBust?

Losing the toss with solid balls was a new Test, that they lost very quickly.

Brendon McCullum said something intriguing on Sky after the loss to South Africa. Asked if batting first made it harder to play the way England did earlier this summer, he said he didn't know.

And we don't. England steamrolled through four Tests against two of the best teams. But all of us saw the signs that while this could have been the new way to play Tests, it could have been a crazy freaky set of circumstances. Injuries, ill preparation, form, new coach/captain bounce, flat day four and five wickets, and those soft Covid Dukes balls.

But we were also there, watching, seeing the records, chases, and innings. You can be as sceptical as you want, listing out all the weird things that went into their wins. But that is four consecutive come-from-behind big Test chases that England knocked off one after the other.

There was a tanning issue with the Duke balls during Covid. Leather is a weird thing, as any dominatrix will tell you. And it doesn't always behave. Baseball had the same issue. And that certainly helped England when they decided to smack the hell out of the ball, or whatever they were using that were resembling the crimson traveller in those other series.

For South Africa, they get a new batch of balls, and suddenly the thing is acting like the old one. In fact, for this match, it was even more brutal. During those four Tests, you can see how much the pacers struggled for England compared to modern times.

You get the new, improved rock back in proper bowler's hands, and its buh-bye runs.

So if this is the case, good luck bashing around the ball as its hooping around corners.

There was also the fact the ball was in the hands of a fully fit and functioning bowling attack. Without re-litigating what went on with New Zealand, essentially every match, they ended up with fewer bowlers than when they started. They made all this worse by not using Daryl Mitchell enough and pretending Michael Bracewell is a frontline bowling option.

India didn't have injuries and probably only made a mistake picking Shardul Thakur over Ashwin. Still, even then, that's relatively marginal. But with the soft balls, Thakur went over a run-a-ball in the Test. Sadly, Mohammad Siraj completely lost rhythm, meaning India only had three bowlers.

South Africa go into games with a five-man attack that is all front liners; there are no Bracewell, De Grandhomme or Thakur in here.

Look at the difference for South Africa. Ngidi basically didn't bowl in the first innings, and Maharaj actually didn't. Nortje went for runs up front. But he, Rabada and Jansen took wickets so quick it didn't matter.

Ngidi only bowled a few overs in the second but got Root. Maharaj took two, including Crawley first. Jansen and Rabada were consistently threatening whenever they had the ball. Nortje kept going for runs, and taking wickets at a similar rate.

Maybe we would have seen weakness as they got tired or as a partnership formed. Or perhaps there would have been a weak link or two like Nortje's run rate could have caused a problem with out-of-shape balls. But the match didn't last long enough for these guys to be tested. Judging by the ball movement, they would have been fine. Nortje was bowling 94MPH wobble balls that were darting back like off-spinners.

McCullum has said repeatedly the new method won't work all the time. He averaged 38 in Test Cricket, he made a 300, and many spectacularly shit scores as well. He didn't always play BazBall, and he is Baz. That the four wins came in a row was always nice for narrative, but it was obviously a bit random. McCullum and Stokes don't know how this is going to end. They just knew where it was going and flipped it.

Things can go right if you are playing that kind of attacking cricket with a side still as flawed as England. And when they don't, it's a two-day Test. That's the risk in their style.

But you could argue they never really went for South Africa by attacking too much here. And McCullum has done so. Maybe Alex Lees was out over attacking in the first innings, but it was more of a shit push than anything flagrant. Bairstow was playing a drive, but the ball he got was pretty special.

Crawley missed a sweep in the second, and Foakes pokes at one. Of course captain Stokes is out hitting, but the game was gone by then. So you see McCullum's point when you look at all that. The ball kept moving, the bowling unit didn't fall apart, and England reverted to lack of form.

And when you are talking about the bad old days of the last regime, what would be your three main weaknesses? Top order batting, slips catching and taking the tail? In this match, that's a BINGO.

McCullum can try minimise these problems; sometimes he'll be lucky. But I think it's hard to win if you drop the opposition's top order, yours doesn't make any runs and the tails keep annoying you. These aren't small problems, and vibes-based positive thinking can only do so much.

And so that gives McCullum and Stokes the same top order problems that Silverwood and Root had. The middle order has been more or less acceptable for a while. But getting them to come in early doesn't help. If Bazball is to work -  especially in England - they can't be 42 and 57 for three.

Because that isn't Baz ball, that is Joe Root or bust. That's less a strategy and more a failed prayer.

But let's get to South Africa sending them in, and whether it bothered them.  McCullum's uncertainty was interesting. The hardest innings to bat in England in the last five years is the first, and they managed to skip it in four consecutive matches.

There is something else funny about this, England's magic innings was the fourth. But they didn't win games there alone. They often did well with the ball in the third (and first), but they still ended far behind in the game. And then they went bang boom wallop and won the match at the end. Against South Africa, they forfeited the final innings with two awful batting displays up against a rolling bowling attack.

Baz ball wasn't just about slogging in the fourth innings. It was about mindset, lengths, attitude, field plans, and never giving up.

It could be the most glorious theory of all time, but it needs a decent team. This is quite obviously a dysfunctional side, otherwise, they may not have tried this. Even West Indies' four pacemen of the apocalypse came after India had smashed their spinners.

And McCullum had a point, it's hard to see how they really played what they had been preaching. This may not be a baz ball bust, but a failure to baz ball at all.

And yet, even within that, we don't know if this will work. Were England unwilling to attack the moving ball, or were they unable? Does any of that matter if their three core issues aren't solved?

I don't know, but England continues to entertain. Five Tests under Baz, and they've been box office in every game.