Former England captain Nasser Hussain has said that batsman Ollie Pope has benefitted from a small but important tweak on the second day of the fourth Test at The Oval. Playing at his home ground, Pope top-scored with 81 off 159 balls against India, helping England take a lead of 99 runs.
"During the recent Test at Headingley, I watched Ollie Pope batting in the nets, and I was pleased to see that he was standing on middle stump rather than off stump. On Friday at The Oval, we saw the benefits of that small but significant tweak. Pope was quite bullish earlier in the season about sticking to his off-stump method, and I understand why a lot of batters this summer have adopted the method," said Hussain in his column for the Daily Mail on Saturday.
"By all accounts, and even from the county championship matches I've seen myself, there is so much movement off the seam and through the air that they've been trying to protect themselves on the outside edge. The trouble is that can create a problem on the inside edge, which is why Pope has been getting out lbw to the one that comes back," added Hussain.
Hussain mentioned about Pope shifting guard to off-stump meant that options to score through off-side were reduced. "But watching Pope in one of Surrey's early games and during the two-Test series against New Zealand in June, I was struck by how much less free-flowing a player he was than when he first came on the scene. By moving across to off stump, he had basically limited his options of scoring on the off side, and his cut shot --once so profitable -- had almost disappeared altogether, because it would have to be a very wide ball to be cut for four when you're standing on off."
The 53-year-old believed that the bio-bubble life enforced by COVID-19 has brought out a tweak in Pope's game for the good.
"We've all heard a lot about how hard it has been for the players to cope with life in the bubble, and Pope himself spoke last summer about the stress of waking up in a room overlooking the ground where you made a duck the day before. But bubble life has also allowed the likes of Pope to tinker with his game. Jonny Bairstow also benefited, though in his case he moved slightly more to the off side because he was getting bowled so often. But, in Pope's case, it looks as if a minor adjustment has done him the world of good."
Hussain concluded by saying that he was happy with Pope's knock on Friday and his next goal should be to move up the order for his county side Surrey.
"And that's why I'm so pleased to see Pope batting again with some of the fluency he was showing 18 months ago. Yes, he was a touch frenetic early on, and there were a couple of fiddles outside off stump. And it will also take time for him to rediscover every aspect of his off-side game. But he was scoring more freely all round the wicket than he managed earlier in the summer."
"The next step for Pope is to get him up the order at Surrey, because there will come a moment when England need to move up from No 5. That moment isn't here yet, but it's strange that he has never batted above No 4 for his county. He's too good a player for that - especially now that he looks comfortable at the crease again."