NASSER HUSSAIN: Stokes' approach fine if the ball is doing something

NASSER HUSSAIN: Ben Stokes’ brave, bold and attacking approach is fine… as long as the ball is doing something! As a captain, you must change your thinking and he will know there are times he must switch it up

  • It is clear to see 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 wasn’t swinging before lunch, and it is crucial to have multiple plans 
  • He is a smart cookie and knows he will sometimes need to do it a little differently 

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

Look up and the overhead conditions suggested batting but look down and the pitch had a green tinge to it and Stokes would be aware Trent Bridge can get better and better for batting on the second and third days.

He wanted to take advantage of anything in the conditions on the first day, particularly with two of the great bowlers in home conditions in 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 provided the ball is actually doing something for England

This England side want to take the attacking option and this was the brave thing to do because when the sun comes out here you can lose control in the field. As we saw in the first session, when there were 20 boundaries, it can be a high scoring boundary ground.

Stokes said before this Test 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 is doing something. But England’s problem before lunch was that it wasn’t swinging.

That’s why, in Test cricket, you can’t always have just one policy because it doesn’t take into account how the game ebbs and flows. You only have to look at the last Test at Lord’s when it was low scoring in the first innings before the pitch got flatter to see that.

It is crucial to have multiple policies in Test cricket that take the ebbs and flows into account

As a captain you have to change your thinking along with the conditions and there was a case for sitting in before lunch and seeing if things changed because Trent Bridge is one of the great swinging grounds.

And, sure enough, suddenly the ball did start to move, after 35 overs, as if somebody had just flicked a switch and Stokes himself started to bowl beautifully.

When the ball is moving the captain can be a real handful because he has a great wrist position and is technically very strong. It was no surprise he made the breakthrough, picked up a couple of wickets and could have had another but for Joe Root’s dropped catch.

Fair play to Broad, too, because he bought into what England were trying to do. Over the years we have seen various captains encouraging him to bowl fuller and there have been times, when the ball hasn’t been doing anything, he’s been reluctant to do that.

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

Here he stuck to the plan after the lunch but it did mean New Zealand got off to another flyer. It’s a fine balance.

Otherwise I felt Stokes did all he could. He handled Jack Leach well and realised Daryl Mitchell might give him a chance by coming at him. Hence he kept his mid-on and mid-off in, again the bold option, and invited him to chance his arm.

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

It is good to take the positive option but Stokes is a smart cookie and he will know there are times when he will need to do it a little differently.

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