London (AFP): England coach Brendon McCullum said the team’s fightback to draw a “heavyweight” Ashes series against Australia justified their attacking approach and provided them with a template to regain the urn in 2025/26.
McCullum’s men were in a dire position at 2-0 down with three to play in a five-match series following defeats at Edgbaston and Lord’s.
But they fought back to win the third Test at Headingley and had much he better of a rain-marred draw at Old Trafford before finishing with a 49-run victory in the series finale at The Oval on Monday.
The drawn series meant Australia, as the holders, retained the Ashes.
But it is now 22 years since Australia, the reigning world Test champions, last won an Ashes series in England.
McCullum has helped transform England’s red-ball fortunes since joining forces with captain Ben Stokes last year, with the pair taking over a team that had won just one of its 17 previous Tests.
England have won 13 out of 18 Tests under the duo, playing a dynamic brand of cricket dubbed “Bazball” in reference to former New Zealand captain McCullum’s nickname.
‘Best chance of winning’
“I guess from our point of view the most pleasing aspect is when we were under the most pressure at 2-0 down we stayed true to that and were able to manufacture some results that allowed us to walk away at 2-2,” said McCullum.
“I think for us that is our best chance of winning. The skipper (Stokes) and I firmly believe that and some of the performances we’ve seen from some of the guys right throughout is testament to that.
“If you’re weighed down by fear of failure or by external noise, all you’re doing is suffocating that talent.”
England were criticised by several former players for being too aggressive early in an Ashes they might have won but for the Manchester weather.
However, McCullum said: “We refined it (our approach) slightly as the series wore on.
“I think both sides have stayed true to their styles and that’s what makes a great heavyweight fight. It’s two different styles and total conviction in them.”
The Oval match saw the retiring England duo of paceman Stuart Broad and spin-bowling all-rounder Moeen Ali bow out of Test cricket on a high.
Other places in the attack may have to be filled by the time England travel to Australia, with veteran swing bowler James Anderson now 41 and the likes of Chris Woakes (34) and Mark Wood (33) well into their respective careers.
Nevertheless, McCullum was encouraged by what he had seen from among those currently pushing to get into the England side.
“We’re starting to build some nice depth in batting and bowling as well, so that’s encouraging and will pose some good conversations moving forward,” he said.
A drawn series means England won’t have won the Ashes for a decade by the time of the next edition in Australia in 2025/26.
But McCullum said the way they had performed in this campaign gave England cause to be optimistic about winning a Test series in Australia for the first time in 15 years.
“You look back when the skipper took over, would we be able to take on a great Australian team –- and they are a great Australian team –- and go toe to toe with them? I think the answer is yes and that’s a tremendous confidence booster for the group,” he said.