Nasser Hussain impressed with Ben Stokes' captaincy against New Zealand, but rues England's fragile batting

IANSUpdated: Friday, June 03, 2022, 03:12 PM IST
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England Test captain Ben Stokes | File Image

The captaincy of Ben Stokes on Day 1 of the first Test between England and New Zealand at Lord's impressed Nasser Hussain. But at the same time, the former England captain was left to rue the side's familiar batting fragility, which left them reeling at 116-7 at stumps after bowling out New Zealand for just 132.

The start of Stokes-Brendon McCullum era as captain and head coach of England was fantastic as debutant pacer Matthew Potts took 4-13 in 9.2 overs while veteran pacer James Anderson too finished with four wickets and Stuart Broad and Stokes claimed one wicket each to bowl out New Zealand for 132.

While batting, England were 59-0 and looked set to easily take the lead. But after Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope fell quickly, England lost five more wickets for just eight runs in 28 balls to end the day at 116-7.

"Many of the things England have been doing wrong in the field over the last 17 Test matches they got right on Ben Stokes' first day as full-time captain. It was just a pity their old failings with the bat came back to haunt them. The seamers bowled a fuller length, the fielders caught everything, with Jonny Bairstow setting the tone at third slip to catch Will Young, and the bowlers didn't overstep once, where recently they've been taking wickets with no-balls," wrote Hussain in his column for Daily Mail.

"But no matter how much good work Stokes did in the first half of the day, he was reminded in the second half that England's Test batting is still a big issue. There's plenty of work still to be done—technically, mentally and positionally.

"For instance, having Ollie Pope batting at No. 3 for the first time was never going to be straightforward. But this is a structural, long-term problem, and it's not going to be solved overnight. Until that dreadful final session, there were reasons to be cheerful," added Hussain.

Hussain further explained how the introduction of Potts and his usage on Day One by Stokes floored him. "Stokes also took emotions out of the equation. Like him, Potts is a Durham lad, and you could see how thrilled Stokes was with each of his three wickets in the morning.

"But he didn't introduce him straightaway after lunch when he must have suspected Colin de Grandhomme and Tim Southee would go after the bowling a bit, and gave the task instead to the wise old heads, Broad and Anderson.

"When Stokes did go back to Potts an hour after lunch, he took a wicket with his first ball. It was a day when the bowling changes worked nicely for the new captain. His demeanour impressed me as well. Stokes can be an expressive cricketer, but he kept a cool head throughout."

Hussain signed off by saying that despite all the positives, the batting implosion prevented day one from being in England's favour. "It was also good to see Zak Crawley reap the benefits of some technical changes with his hands -- he's gripping the bat less tightly, as Joe Root does—only for his old nemesis, the booming drive, to prove his undoing. After that, it was a familiar story, I'm afraid. You can change the regime, it seems, but not England's fragility with the bat."

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