Band Nick Hoult
For England to win their first test run for 18 months this week, they will have to kick a habit that dogged Joe Root’s years and ultimately dragged him down.
In four of the five home summers under Root, England have followed a good victory with a deflated defeat and Trent Bridge has more often been the scene of one of those defeats.
In 2017 and 2018 England arrived in Nottingham with a spring in their step and positivity in the air having won the previous Test at Lord’s only to be beaten, first by South Africa and then 12 months later by India, losing those games by a colossal 203 and 340 races.
It was characteristic of that team and impeded their progress, leading England to cut and change and that was why Root found it so difficult to make his mark on the side.
There’s no question about how Stokes wants his team to play. He urged them yesterday to go even harder this week in New Zealand, buoyed by their five-wicket victory at Lord’s. Luck is definitely on Stokes’ side at the moment too. Kane Williamson tested positive last night for covid, forcing the captain out of the test and leading to a late call-up for Leicestershire’s Hamish Rutherford. New Zealand’s top order couldn’t get past 20 in the first test and has now lost its best player and taken a big turnaround in the 1st hour. All of this gives Stokes a great chance to lead England to victory in their first series, which would be his team’s first win since beating Sri Lanka earlier last year.
“My message to everyone is to just look even more positive than we were last week,” he said. “If you look at the result, we ended up winning, but don’t just get comfortable where we are. It’s just a simple message and it’s something that we’re trying to filter into everything we do. I don’t know how you make the positive more positive, but I think you get what I mean.”
With Jack Leach getting into shape following his concussion, Stokes was able to name the same starting eleven, replacement Matt Parkinson dropping out.
Stuart Broad and James Anderson play tests back-to-back, which would not have happened under the old regime, and the first three wavers were told to go out and play with equal freedom.
There was no reflection on what would have happened if Colin de Grandhomme hadn’t overtaken when he dropped Stokes in one.
Instead, England looked like a happy team with Stokes saying what fun it was at the nets on both days of practice, the administration lightening the mood with a penalty shootout on Wednesday and on Tuesday the coaches wearing helmets and heading the players before going down. for business.
“What I’ve told everyone is, first and foremost, we’re playing for England, doing something that you love, that you grew up playing as a kid,” Stokes said. “It should always be fun. The results and other things will take care of themselves. We’ll try to enjoy this as much as we can, always making sure we’re having as much fun as we can. It will all be taken away from us one day, and if you can’t enjoy doing that, I really don’t know what we can enjoy.”
The one enjoying his cricket again is Root, who unloaded himself after his handsome hundred lord by finally admitting that what we all knew in that captaincy was sucking the life out of him. Root once finished an audition at Trent Bridge wearing a Bob Willis mask and poking fun at his snappy comment and that side of his character is starting to return.
“I went through that whole ride with Joe, especially over the two years. Captaining England is more than just what you do on the pitch,” said Stokes. “You could end up taking it home and it could affect your personal situation, which Joe was very brave to say, which I think is great. Joe, without that added pressure of being captain, it was almost like he was 18 again and I’m sure it won’t be long before he’s cutting people’s socks off again. It’s great to see Joe the way he is and one thing Joe always does is score. It’s great that he doesn’t have this mountain of added pressure of being captain on his shoulders, he can just go out there and book races like he does.”
Players certainly want to keep Brendon McCullum happy. Leach was one of several players who watched footage of the new coach on youtube and how he tore behind the ball on the field. McCullum pulled back in practice, opting to talk to players one-on-one, but made his first pitches on Wednesday. Stokes led the team’s chats. In reality, it’s not much different from what happened under Chris Silverwood or Trevor Bayliss, it’s just the newness of the regime that made it look and feel different.
Henry Nicholls returns to the New Zealand middle order and Michael Bracewell will likely replace Colin De Grandhomme. The final switch could be Neil Wagner to spinner Ajaz Patel, sharpening the attack. England also needs to be better. Lord’s was a good victory, but not a good one.