Former England skipper Nasser Hussain feels New Zealand were “slightly undercooked” in the opening Test against England at Lord’s and that they will come hard at the hosts in the second Test at Trent Bridge, adding that the three top-order batters — Alex Lees, Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope — will have to play a fruitful innings in order to keep the tourists at bay.
All three top-order England batters were below-par in both innings at Lord’s with only Crawley having a worthwhile score of 43 in the first innings, which led to a first-innings collapse as the hosts were bundled out for 141.
In the second innings too, the trio had a collective score of 39 and it was left to former skipper Joe Root (115 not out), Ben Stokes (54) and Ben Foakes (32 not out) to guide the team to a five-wicket win and take a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series.
On Friday, Hussain opined that England skipper Stokes “will need at least one of his top three to go big at Trent Bridge”.
“They (England) should expect New Zealand, who were slightly undercooked, to come back hard over the next few days in Nottingham. Don’t forget, they’re the world champions. An obvious area for improvement is England’s top three of Alex Lees, Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope, though I would say we shouldn’t get too down on them. After all, look at how New Zealand’s much more experienced top order struggled at Lord’s,” said Hussain in his column for Daily Mail.
“It’s also true that no one is expecting England to sort out all their problems overnight. Improvement, if it comes, will be gradual. But in each instance there’s a slight issue to overcome, and there’s no doubt all three (top-order batters) will feel more comfortable with a major innings behind them.
Hussain pointed out that in Lee’s case he has continually got into the groove, then got out, with six scores between 20 and 31 in eight Test innings.
“When you’re opening the batting, especially in England, you’re always going to get the odd jaffa early on, which means when you make a start you have to go big. That way, you can have a couple of low scores but still average 40 or 50 for the series. Alastair Cook was a master of doing that,” said Hussain.
Pointing out Lee’s flaw, Hussain said that the batter is constantly tinkering with his guard.
“Left-handers often have to change guard to account for bowlers coming over or round the wicket, but at Lord’s, he was doing it too much.
Lee left one from Kyle Jamieson that hit the top of off stump in the second innings at Lord’s. In the first innings he was standing outside off stump, which meant Tim Southee aimed a bit straighter and Lees was out lbw.
Crawley, though, played nicely for 43 on the first day but got out to his old nemesis, the booming drive. Hussain felt that the likes of Southee, Jamieson and Trent Boult were world-class bowlers and if Crawley drives carelessly against them, they will be all over him.