The only brand of cricket fans want is a winning one: Nasser Hussain

London: Former England captain Nasser Hussain feels that ahead of the side’s first Test against reigning World Test Championship (WTC) winners New Zealand at the Lord’s Cricket Ground, fans are interested only in a winning brand of cricket from the hosts.

Thursday marks the first time England will take the field in Test cricket under the leadership of all-rounder Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum to reverse their fortunes in the longest format of the game.

“There’s been plenty of talk in the build-up to this first Test about the brand of cricket England want to play under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum. We’ve all seen the headlines. For me, there’s only one brand the fans are interested in and that’s a winning one,” wrote Hussain in his column for Daily Mail.

Hussain advised England that reversing fortunes in Test cricket won’t be easy, citing the metamorphosis of the side in white-ball cricket since 2015, where they are now a force to reckon with. “Test cricket isn’t like the white-ball game, where you can come in — like Eoin Morgan did seven years ago — and tell the batters to go hell for leather for 50 overs. It’s not as simple as that. Conditions on day one will differ from conditions on day five. You have to adapt.”

“The good news is Stokes and McCullum understand that. Stokes, don’t forget, was on two from 66 balls during that Headingley innings against Australia in 2019. McCullum once made a triple-hundred in 13 hours. So, yes, while they both have aggressive mindsets, they instinctively understand that Test cricket doesn’t fit quite so easily into a template.”

In their last 17 matches in the format, England have won just once, with top-order failing constantly a common thread in the losses. Hussain pointed out opener Zak Crawley needs to sort his game while new number three batter Ollie Pope will require patience from the England think-tank.

“Zak Crawley has to look at his game. Sure, we don’t want three blockers going anywhere, and Crawley does bring that aggressive edge. But he has to realise that flashing and driving hard at the Dukes ball in England will leave him vulnerable. He may have to look at that shot and make the bowlers come to him, so he can get his leg-side shots away.”

“Then there’s Ollie Pope at No 3, where he’s not batted before. The best No 3s convey a sense of calm, but what we saw from Pope during the Ashes was all a bit frenetic. He’s got huge talent, but England need him to show composure to go with it.”

Hussain signed off by expressing confidence in the Stokes-McCullum combination, putting England on the right path in Test cricket. “I’m confident Stokes and McCullum will get things right, and I’m glad to hear they’re not great fans of rotation. They’ll pick the best team for the game in front of them, which is as it should be.”

“Everyone needs to be working together and focusing on the details they need to get right. Headlines are one thing, but the task of turning England’s Test fortunes around starts on the field at Lord’s on Thursday morning.”

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