It was very much in keeping with his slightly incurious nature that Trevor Bayliss, in his final press conference as England head coach, had no idea the man who hired him four years ago had been knighted in the previous evening’s honors list.
Andrew Strauss, now Sir Andrew Strauss, recruited Bayliss in 2015 off the back of a trophy-laden record in limited-overs cricket but also because of his reputation as an old-school Aussie who would relax the players after the more intense regimes of Andy Flower and Peter Moores.
The mission, Bayliss was told, was to help a promising generation of England players win their first men’s World Cup and it was accomplished on 14 July this summer when Eoin Morgan lifted the trophy at Lord’s after the gut-wrenching super-over drama of that final against New Zealand.
Two months on, Bayliss heads into his last Test as head coach and while his place in English cricket history is secured by that glittering piece of ICC-branded silverware, that the Ashes urn figuratively remains in Australian hands leaves a slight sense of disappointment. It is one he shares too.
“I’m a traditionalist,” replied Bayliss, when asked about his reputation as a white-ball specialist. “I prefer Test match cricket. I’ve been lucky enough to have been in charge of a few white-ball teams who have won. Winning the World Cup was where England had to make the biggest turnaround in their cricket.
“Test cricket hasn’t gone as well as we would have liked. I think we’ve had more wins than losses but trying to find the depth in our Test ranks, as we have in our one-day team, will be a challenge going forward.”
Bayliss is just about “in the black”, as he puts it, with 26 Test wins, 25 defeats and seven draws. There have been highs along the way – the 2015 Ashes victory at home, as well as away series, wins in South Africa (2016-17) and Sri Lanka last winter – but also some heavy defeats on the road. This week at the Oval they must defend a record of having never lost a series at home under his watch.
Ben Stokes bowled in training on Tuesday, meaning Chris Woakes for Craig Overton may be the only change from the defeat at Old Trafford. The tourists, 2-1 up and having retained the Ashes already, can at least be denied a first outright win on English soil since 2001.
When asked if the players owe him one last performance, the reply came that “they owe themselves one”. Bayliss in a nutshell. Because for all the talk of results and records, the man himself has maintained since day one in the job that coaches “have had their day in the sun” and in cricket, it is the players who win and lose. The primacy of the captain is very much part of this. Read More