NASSER HUSSAIN: England must not tinker with plan during series of two tests against New Zealand Nieuw
This series of two tests against New Zealand is a bit of a reboot for England after losing India’s last three games in such strange circumstances.
At the same time, they shouldn’t just write off what happened on those spinning fields in Chennai and Ahmedabad.
The feeling England must recapture is the feeling they took with them after winning that first test in India against all odds.
While England want to plan for the future, they shouldn’t stray too far from their best team team
They scored big runs in the first innings in that game, which is the template set by Chris Silverwood when he took charge as head coach at the end of 2019 and took over the game.
The tour then unraveled against India’s spinners, but that doesn’t mean the template has to change.
England must also learn from what has happened to their rest-and-rotate policies.
I fully understand the need to look after the well-being of the players in a time of covid and bubble life, and I applaud England’s director Ashley Giles and Silverwood for their position.
But there have been one or two times in the past year when it all seemed a little too well-planned for comfort.
Ideally, you don’t want to stray too far from the basic wisdom to get to a location, assess the conditions, and pick your best team accordingly.
So yes, plan for the future. Take a good look at a top three of Dom Sibley, Rory Burns and Zak Crawley. Find out who your second spinner is behind Jack Leach. Decide what kind of bowlers you want to go to Australia with this winter.
But at the same time, make sure to pick the best team for the match ahead. Winning matches is a way to build confidence. And it means you don’t have to get too complicated with your schedule.
James Bracey is a well-organized player, but he will now be under extra scrutiny
For example, if I were Chris Woakes, I think I’d have Silverwood and Joe Root on the phone to point out that I don’t really need to rest now because I barely played cricket over the winter.
And for all the talk of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad barely bowling in the same Test over the winter, in England they are still my favorite men with the Dukes ball, especially with Jofra Archer injured. Sometimes selection can get too smart. Let’s not be afraid to go back to basics.
I think the public generally understands that these are special circumstances, so someone like Jos Buttler is resting right now. And it also gives Root a chance to look at a few other names to add to the mix.
James Bracey looks like a well organized player, with a good batting pace, although he will be out of position at number 7, and one of the challenges he will face is control.
When you drop a catch for Gloucestershire, not many people notice. Zero Kane Williamson in a Lord’s Test, and the error is magnified.
Ollie Robinson looks to me like a Gus Fraser-esque bowler – he hits the top and gives very little away. Craig Overton has added a meter of pace and seems to combine accuracy with speed.
But while England are now watching these guys in a series they want to win, they need to keep an eye on the future. It’s a tricky balancing act.
In that regard, I was impressed with what I recently saw of Saqib Mahmood in the Roses match at Old Trafford. He was fast and aggressive, and as the ball got older, he found reverse swing. That’s exactly the kind of bowler I would like to have in Australia.
There is a lot to like about New Zealand and they will give England a challenge
As for New Zealand, I once described them when I was a captain as ‘back pain’. But at some point you have to say that all those clichés – ‘dark horses’, ‘punches above their weight’ – become meaningless.
They are a team that always does well in World Cups, they became number 1 in the Test rankings not too long ago and they are about to play in the World Test Championship final against India. They play with a smile and there is a lot of fun about them.
But they also need to strike the right balance between beating England and preparing for India. One thing both teams will know is that this is a Lord’s Test match, and whatever else is going on is still something to cherish.