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England v New Zealand: Ben Stokes will need at least one of his top three to go big at Trent Bridge

NASSER HUSSAIN: Ben Stokes needs at least one of his top three to make it big at Trent Bridge… Alex Lees, Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope all have little problems to overcome, but if they can make a start it could be a great one be hitting his place

  • England can expect New Zealand to come back hard after loss at Lord’s
  • A clear point for improvement is England’s top three in batting order
  • What doesn’t seem to help Alex Lees is that he’s constantly tinkering with his guard
  • If Zak Crawley drives carelessly on Trent Bridge, the visitors will take him by surprise
  • Ollie Pope needs time to settle at No. 3 but still looks a little frantic at the fold

That was a much-needed victory for England in the first Test at Lord’s, but they can expect New Zealand, which was a little undercooked, to come back hard in Nottingham in the coming days. Remember, they are the world champions.

An obvious area for improvement is the England top three of Alex Lees, Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope, although I’d say we shouldn’t underestimate them. Finally, see how New Zealand’s much more experienced top order struggled at Lord’s.

It is also true that no one expects England to solve all their problems overnight. Improvement, if it comes, will be gradual. But in any case, there’s a small problem to be solved, and there’s no doubt that all three will feel more comfortable with a big turn behind them.

England captain Ben Stokes needs at least one of his top three to make it big at Trent Bridge

England captain Ben Stokes needs at least one of his top three to make it big at Trent Bridge

Alex Lees kept getting in and out, with six scores between 20 and 31 in test career

Alex Lees kept getting in and out, with six scores between 20 and 31 in test career

Read averages 21 in Test cricket, Crawley 28 and Pope – after a good start – 27. They can all do better.

In Lees’ case, he was constantly in and out, scoring six between 20 and 31 in eight Test innings.

When you start batting, especially in England, you always get a strange jaffa in the beginning, which means when you make a start you have to go big. That way you can have some low scores, but still average 40 or 50 for the series. Alastair Cook was a master at that.

What doesn’t seem to help Lees is that he’s constantly on guard. Left-handers often have to change guards to account for bowlers coming over or around the wicket, but at Lord’s he did it too much.

He left one from Kyle Jamieson hitting the top of the stump in the second innings at Lord's

He left one from Kyle Jamieson hitting the top of the stump in the second innings at Lord’s

In the first innings, he was out on a stump, allowing Kane Williamson to tell Tim Southee to aim straighter. Sure enough, Lees was out lbw. In the second he wasn’t that far over but then he left one of Kyle Jamieson hitting the top.

The more you move, the less sure you are where your punch is. He has to arrange a guard and stick to it.

Crawley played well for 43 on the first day, but ran into his old nemesis, the blooming drive.

It was interesting to hear Ben Stokes say that he had encouraged his batters to loosen their grips a bit, the way Joe Root does so well, and you could see Crawley applying the technique. For a while it drove beautifully.

If Zak Crawley rides carelessly in this game, the New Zealand bowlers will catch him by surprise

If Zak Crawley rides carelessly in this game, the New Zealand bowlers will catch him by surprise

The ball can swing at Trent Bridge and the likes of Southee, Jamieson and Trent Boult are world class. If Crawley drives carelessly in this game, they will catch him off guard.

He must choose his moment. If he does, we all know what he’s capable of.

As for Pope, we need to give him time to settle at number 3, if that’s where England see him in the long run. But he still looks a little frantic at the fold.

When Trent Boult pitched Ollie Pope in the second innings at Lord's, he nearly fell over

When Trent Boult pitched Ollie Pope in the second innings at Lord’s, he nearly fell over

I’ve been keeping a close eye on him at Lord’s and he seems to be moving even after he’s played his shot. When Boult threw him in the second innings, Pope nearly fell over.

If I were to throw him into the nets, I would emphasize the need to watch the ball all the way to the bat and to remain still a fraction longer after he plays it.

And while it swings at Trent Bridge, it can also be a great place to hit – the field is mostly flat and the outfield fast. If England’s top three can make a start, at least one of them must make something big out of it.

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