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England vs New Zealand: Ben Stokes’ bold approach is fine if the ball is moving, Nasser Hussain says

NASSER HUSSAIN: Ben Stokes’ brave, daring and attacking approach is fine… as long as the ball does something! As a captain you have to change your thinking and he will know there are times when he has to change it

  • It’s clear why England and New Zealand wanted to bowl first in the Test
  • Ben Stokes is aware that Trent Bridge can get better and better for batting
  • But the ball didn’t swing before lunch, and it’s crucial to have multiple plans
  • He is a smart cookie and knows that sometimes he has to do things a little differently

I could understand why Ben Stokes – and stand-in New Zealand captain Tom Latham – both wanted to pitch first in this second Test.

Look up and the air conditions suggested hitting, but look down and the field had a green tinge and Stokes would know that Trent Bridge can get better and better for hitting on the second and third days.

He wanted to take advantage of everything in the conditions on the first day, especially with two of the great bowlers in home conditions Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad in his ranks and New Zealand weakened by the late loss of their captain Kane Williamson.

Ben Stokes' bold approach works on the condition that the ball actually does something for England

Ben Stokes’ bold approach works on the condition that the ball actually does something for England

This side of England wants to take the attacking option and this was the brave choice because when the sun shines here you can lose control in the field. As we saw in the first session, when there were 20 borders, it can be a high scoring border area.

Stokes said before this Test that he wants his bowlers to always try to take wickets rather than worry about saving runs and that’s fine as long as the ball does something. But England’s problem before lunch was that it didn’t swing.

That’s why you can’t always have just one policy in Test cricket as it doesn’t take into account how the game ebbs and flows. You only have to watch the last Test at Lord’s when it scored low in the first innings before the field leveled out to see that.

It is critical to have multiple policies in Test cricket that take into account ebb and flow

It is critical to have multiple policies in Test cricket that take into account ebb and flow

As a captain you have to change your mind along with the circumstances and there was a reason to sit for lunch and see if things changed because Trent Bridge is one of the great swinging terrains.

Sure enough, suddenly the ball started moving, after 35 overs, as if someone had just flipped a switch and Stokes himself started bowling beautifully.

When the ball is in motion, the captain can be a handful because he has a great wrist position and is technically very strong. It was no surprise that he made the breakthrough, picked up a few wickets and could have had another, had it not been for Joe Root’s catch.

Fair play for Broad too, as he agreed to what England were trying to do. Over the years we have seen several captains encourage him to bowl fuller and there have been times when the ball did nothing, he hesitated to do so.

Stuart Broad (above) agreed to the game plan, although New Zealand got another flyer

Stuart Broad (above) agreed to the game plan, although New Zealand got another flyer

Here he stuck to the plan after lunch, but it did mean New Zealand stepped on another flyer. It’s a great balance.

Otherwise I felt like Stokes was doing everything he could. He got on well with Jack Leach and realized that Daryl Mitchell might give him a chance by coming after him. So he held back his mid-on and mid-off, again the daring option, and invited him to venture his arm.

It will take time for Stokes. At Lord’s it was noticeable how the English catch had improved but on Friday they fell back into old habits and there was also a return of more no balls.

It’s good to take the positive option, but Stokes is a smart cookie and he will know there are times when he needs to do things a little differently.

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