Nasser Hussain urges England to avoid 'this is the way we play' mantra

February 22, 2024
Nasser Hussain has urged England to not fall back on their previous ‘this is the way we play’ method of playing Test cricket,

Ranchi, Feb 22 (IANS) Former captain Nasser Hussain has urged England to not fall back on their previous ‘this is the way we play’ method of playing Test cricket, and has called upon the batters to step up if they are to square the ongoing series against India.

England conceded a 126-run lead to India and were put under the pump in all departments by the hosts’ to lose the match by 434 runs inside four days at the Niranjan Shah Stadium. England are now 2-1 behind in the five-match series against India, with the fourth Test at Ranchi to begin from Friday.

“They’ve been successful and they’ve been entertaining. One bad game doesn’t undermine the entire strategy. But that isn’t to say they can’t be smarter. You can’t just fall back on the old ‘this is the way we play’ mantra, because Test cricket is all about adapting to conditions – especially in India, where the nature of the pitch can change almost overnight during the course of a five-day Test.

“By all accounts, the surface at Ranchi – where there hasn’t been a Test since October 2019 – could help the spinners, and if that’s the case then England will need to be smart. If you get in, you need to make it count. Look at the first three Tests: England won the first after Ollie Pope’s magnificent 196, before India hit back with successive double-centuries from Yashasvi Jaiswal and 131 from Rohit Sharma.

“In England, if you get out for 70 in the first innings, you might still be able to go out in the second and thrash 140 on a good surface. But Indian pitches don’t always offer you that luxury. England will need to turn 50s into 100s in their first innings, and do most of the hard work there,” wrote Hussain in his column for Daily Mail.

He also wished for Jonny Bairstow, who is enduring a horror tour of India so far, to get back to scoring ways. “For Bairstow, the key – as it is for so many visiting batters in India – is to get through those first 20-30 balls when it’s turning and Ravindra Jadeja is spearing them into your pads, making it tough to sweep. If he can do that, he can be destructive, but he has to give himself a chance. Perhaps the fact that he has a point to prove will bring out the best in him.”

Hussain also insisted that it’s not the case of the England batters changing their mindset and added that the visitors’ can take inspiration from how they bounced back in last year’s Ashes series to make the scoreline 2-2.

“It’s not a question of changing your mindset: you still need to be positive to score runs in India. It’s about working out when to take the attacking option. Joe Root’s reverse scoop didn’t become a bad shot because he got out to it on the third morning in Rajkot, but you could question the timing. That’s where England need to be smarter.”

“They’ve done it before. Think back to the Ashes, where they became better at playing the short ball after that hook-happy collapse at Lord’s. Bazball, as they keep telling us, is about smart cricket, not headless cricket. They need to prove that point again now.

“And they have a real chance to stay in the series. Virat Kohli and KL Rahul are still missing, and India will be without Jasprit Bumrah, whose 17 wickets in the first three Tests cost just 13 each.”

Hussain also wished for England to improve upon their slip catching, as well as in line and length of spinners at Ranchi. “Their catching has to improve: if Root had held Rohit at slip on the first day last week, that Test might have been a different story. And their spinners need to find a more consistent length.

“They deserve a bit of leeway, because of their inexperience, but both Tom Hartley and in particular Rehan Ahmed need to be able to keep things tighter, because India’s batters are growing more ruthless as the series progresses.”



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