Former England captain Nasser Hussain showed his dissatisfaction over the hosts’ poor fielding effort on Day 1 of the Headingley Test on Thursday, where they dropped four catches. Describing dropping catches as a virus, Hussain stated that veteran keeper-batter Jonny Bairstow, who put down two of the chances, might be a bit undercooked as he is coming from injury. Apart from him, Joe Root also dropped a couple in the slip cordon. However, despite the let-offs, Mark Wood (5/34) and Chris Woakes (3/73) made sure that Australia were held to 263 after England won the toss and bowled first as well.
In his column for the Daily Mail, Hussain wrote: “I felt for Chris Woakes, who ended up getting three wickets on his comeback and bowled beautifully, and even Mark Wood despite him taking his first five-wicket Test haul in England. Twice Woakes had chances put down doing exactly what captain Ben Stokes asked – hitting a full length, and finding the outside edge. In reprieving centurion Mitchell Marsh and Travis Head it cost England something like 138 runs.”
While stating that while England worked hard on their fielding, Hussain added that 14 drops and a missed stumping in Ashes 2023 so far show the worst start of a series for them in six years as well.
He added: “All I can say is there’s no specific technical reason I can decipher. Maybe Jonny Bairstow is a little bit undercooked after the injury and his footwork behind the stumps is not as nimble as someone like Alex Carey. Also, dropping catches is like a virus. A confidence thing. One goes down, and your hands stiffen up. The best slip fielders I played with in Mark Waugh and Nick Knight looked like they were catching an egg, their hands were so soft. But the moment one or two go down it is almost like you don’t want the ball to come to you and if you’re a bit tense, the ball can bounce off them.”
Mitchell Marsh, who was dropped early in his innings by Joe Root, smashed a run-a-ball 118. He also opined that the entire conversation around Bazball hurting the hosts is somewhat misleading since it is the basics that are letting them down.
“What actually makes me cross around the whole Bazball chat is that it is the small details that are letting England down but that isn’t the narrative that’s coming across. If England win, it’s all brilliant and down to Bazball. Lose, and it is because Bazball doesn’t work,” Hussain concluded: “Actually it is the basics of the game where they have fallen short: not having bowlers fit at the right time, batters not being ruthless when they have the opposition down, taking wickets from no-balls and fielders missing catches.”