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Ben Stokes expects feelgood factor to continue after uplifting Lord's win

Captain praises McCullum's influence as England seek repeat performance at Trent Bridge

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Ben Stokes looks on during an intra-squad penalty shootout at Trent Bridge  •  Getty Images

Ben Stokes looks on during an intra-squad penalty shootout at Trent Bridge  •  Getty Images

Ben Stokes, England's captain, expects the feelgood factor from last week's victory in the first Test against New Zealand at Lord's to carry over to Trent Bridge this week, as he reminded his players to keep having "as much fun as you possibly can" in an England shirt.
Stokes himself made an important half-century in England's run-chase at Lord's, before Joe Root's unbeaten century sealed a gripping match by five wickets. But even if England had lost, the team's new positive vibe was notable through the four days of the game, from the returning veterans James Anderson and Stuart Broad right through to the debutant seamer Matt Potts.
And for Stokes, to secure a victory for England in the first Test of his new partnership with head coach Brendon McCullum was a major boost, especially after a bleak run in which the side had won just one match out of 17 over the previous 15 months.
"It's fantastic," Stokes told Sky Sports. "To come into the second game here with the win under our belts straightaway, with me being captain and Brendon as coach, it's obviously better than losing.
"But one of the great things that I found out is just how much fun it's been," he added. "Sometimes with the pressures of being an international cricketer, and going out and delivering performances on a weekly basis, [things] can get challenging, but we're playing for England, we're doing a job that we all grew up just playing as a hobby.
"And I think everyone's just really enjoyed themselves, because at the end of the day, when you're playing for your country, the first and foremost thing is just to make sure you have as much fun as you possibly can."
It's a far cry from the careworn approach that England took to their cricket over the previous year, most particularly during the Ashes when the side was still having to deal with the restrictions of Covid bubbles, not to mention a run of sapping defeats.
For Stokes himself, however, the upbeat attitude is particularly encouraging to see, given his well-publicised struggles in 2021, when a badly broken finger caused him to take an indefinite break from the game and led him to fear whether he would ever be fit enough to play at the highest level again.
"You don't get many greater honours than to represent your country, and if it's not fun and enjoyable, then it's probably time to call it a day," he said.
The lighthearted approach was visible during an intra-squad football match during training, with McCullum and James Foster, England's wicketkeeping coach, taking up residence between the posts for a penalty shoot-out.
"I shouted out to [McCullum] I can see why he gave up," Stokes joked. "It was a bit harder to get past [Foster] than Baz. But that energy that Baz has brought has just been a lift for everyone. It's just been great having his enthusiasm and his energy around the group."
With no Trent Bridge Test in the schedule for next year's Ashes, this week's contest could yet turn out to be a home-ground swansong for one of Nottinghamshire's finest, Broad. Stokes, however, doesn't expect Broad to need any extra motivation to give his all to the cause, especially after his critical intervention on the third morning at Lord's, when three wickets including a run-out fell in the space of three balls in his third over of the day.
"I don't think he needs much inspiration," Stokes said. "Every time he wears the three lions, he goes out there and tries to give it his all. He and James [Anderson] set the example last week. It was great to see two guys, who have accomplished amazing things on the field for England, charging in like they did last week. It was inspiring for even myself, as well as all the younger lads, so I hope they can do the same again this week.
"[Broad] loves playing at Trent Bridge," he added. "It's where he's played all his cricket since he moved from Leicester, and he's got some great memories here, probably the best one is his 8 for 15 against Australia. But every time you walk onto the field playing for England at your home county is very special."
Stokes himself had caused some concern about his fitness with an uncomfortable stint during England's nets session on Wednesday, but confirmed he will be fit to play a full part as an allrounder.
"It's just body stiffness, wear and tear," he said. "It's just about being more sensible in our training, because when you get out there and cross that line, you obviously want to do everything that you can to help win a game for England."
Despite England's victory at Lord's - their first in eight Tests against New Zealand - Stokes acknowledged that their opponents were perfectly capable of battling back in the remainder of the series, both this week and at Headingley in the third Test.
"We're very evenly matched with New Zealand, especially in English conditions," he said. "Any overheads suit both our bowling attacks so we know that every time we go up against New Zealand it's never an easy ride. The game pretty much went to the wire until day four. And we don't expect anything less [this time]."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket