NASSER HUSSAIN: In an era where we are worried about Test cricket's future it is great for the sport to see that T20 stars Ben Duckett and Liam Livingstone will feature for England against Pakistan
It Is a good indication of where this England Test team are at right now that Ben Duckett and Liam Livingstone will be playing in the first Test against Pakistan.
If Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes had not made this side so attractive and exciting, it is possible those two players might have turned instead to the financial possibilities of franchise cricket.
They will both still play T20 cricket around the world, of course, but it is also clear that they want a piece of the Test action. In an era when we are all worried about Test cricket’s future, it is great not just for the English game, but for the sport as a whole.
When the captain and the coach said they wanted to make Test cricket enjoyable, they were thinking mainly about spectators. But they also sent a message to the franchise generation of players: go out and play like you do in white-ball cricket.
It is irrelevant that Livingstone has not played a red-ball match since the summer of 2021. A couple of weeks ago, some of these guys were playing in a T20 World Cup final. That is how it works now.
And someone like Livingstone does not over-complicate things. McCullum will want him to play ‘see ball, hit ball’ cricket, and that will suit him perfectly. His potential is huge.
Ultimately, though, both he and Duckett will be judged on runs. Look at Alex Lees, who adapted his game but was dropped in the end because the scores dried up. Runs are the only currency that matter, whatever your style.
My only slight issue is that, on these flat pitches, I would want the extra bowling option instead of the extra batting option — especially if Livingstone comes in as a low as No 7.
That said, with guys like him around to force the pace, it may give England the best chance of making up for the time they are going to lose to the early sunsets here in northern Pakistan.
I always go back to Adelaide in 2010-11, when Kevin Pietersen made a quick double-century and England won moments before it started chucking it down. If he had not scored so rapidly, that game might have been a draw.
England will have the same mindset here. But, being a very smart cricketer, Stokes will also understand that captaincy in Pakistan needs to be a little more sophisticated than it is in England, where the swinging Dukes ball means the game generally proceeds at the same rapid pace.
In Pakistan, there are periods when you have to seize the moment — with the bat when the ball has lost its shine and with the ball when it starts to reverse.
Bazball is not just about attacking. Stokes and McCullum both know there will be times to go hard, as well as times to grasp when the tempo is changing.
If it is reversing, you might bring in the extra slip. If it is spinning for Jack Leach, bring in another close fielder.
I have no doubt that Stokes will be alert to the subtleties. You don’t necessarily have to sit for 14 days, then ambush Pakistan on the last day of the last Test, as my team did all those years ago. But you do have to think on your feet.
Anyone who watched Stokes’s innings at Headingley against Australia three years ago, or his knock against Pakistan in the World Cup final earlier this month, will know that he has a gut feel about changing tempo. And, thanks to his cricketing intelligence, other players want to come along for the ride.