NASSER HUSSAIN: Aggressive and attacking Alex Lees looks a changed man

NASSER HUSSAIN: Aggressive and attacking Alex Lees looks a changed man with his improved approach… England HAD to make this their day, and how they fired! This will do their cricket the world of good

  • England are now just 80 runs behind New Zealand’s first-innings total of 553 
  • Ollie Pope and Joe Root both scored fine centuries on a good day for the team 
  • But it was Alex Lees who caught the eye as a more aggressive, attacking opener 
  • Ben Stokes’ side had to make this their day, and how they fired at Trent Bridge 

This was a day, on a quick scoring Trent Bridge ground with a flat pitch, for England’s batsmen to remember how difficult life has been for much of the last couple of years and take full advantage.

They had to make it their day. And how they fired. It was the day England fans have been waiting a long time for.

Of the players England have used so far under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum the one who has had the biggest change in mentality is Alex Lees. Look at his strike-rate in the Caribbean and then see how he played in the second innings at Lord’s and now here.

Alex Lees now looks a more aggressive opener for England and starred against New Zealand

It is as if someone has flicked a switch and said to Lees ‘right, come on.’ He has looked a much more aggressive, attacking opener and provided the style the new regime want to see from their openers.

Not reckless or flashy. Just well organised and able to put pressure on the bowlers. Lees will be disappointed he didn’t make a century here but I like the way he is setting up and the shots he is playing.

I have always been convinced Ollie Pope would become a very fine international cricketer and it’s good to see him move away from that off-stump guard employed by so many players in county cricket that had limited his stroke-play.

Ollie Pope has moved to an orthodox technique, and the longer he stayed, the better he looked

The question, and it is one for Rob Key to ask, is why Pope and others have been doing it? The ball has been doing so much in county cricket in recent years that batters feel they have to cover their stumps to try to avoid nicking off. But what they haven’t seemed to realise is that it creates other issues.

Now Pope has gone back to an orthodox technique, taking guard on middle stump, opening up the off-side and cover driving and cutting so fluently.

He can still be ‘jabby’ and it was noticeable when he first went in here that Pope was still falling over a bit. But the longer he stayed in the better he looked, with a ‘try to get past me’ Joe Root-type block that sent a message to the bowlers.

There will be times when the ball is doing a bit more that Pope will have to be careful outside off-stump but this was a top-class effort and you could see how pleased the dressing room were when he reached a century. And Root’s reaction at the other end, punching the air before embracing Pope, was lovely to see.

Joe Root continues to amaze; he is a genuinely good guy with remarkable batting statistics

Root, meanwhile, just amazes me. 

This was the fastest of his 27 Test hundreds and he is working his way up the list of the greatest players the game has known.

He is just so fluent, he is enjoying not just his success but other people’s, and he has scored so many of his runs batting in the top four in England at a time when the ball has been moving around and when he has been captain. 

His stats are truly remarkable.

These are early days, but this will improved display will do English cricket the world of good

Joe always has time for people, as he again showed coming off at tea and signing a bat for a young spectator, and he is right at the top of the tree as a player and ambassador for the game. A genuinely good guy who is absolutely brilliant at batting.

For Test cricket’s sake we could do with this pitch breaking up over the last two days – and there were signs of a little bit of turn by the end of day three – but for now this will do English cricket the world of good.

It is early days and there will be challenges ahead but, against a very good bowling attack, these were promising signs.

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