Key hails unimaginable Stokes start as England Test captain

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England men's managing director Rob Key could not foresee Ben Stokes' Test captaincy starting in such a promising fashion.

Stokes and Brendon McCullum were appointed as the new captain-coach combination following April's resignation of Joe Root, who had won just one of his past 17 Tests as skipper.

The new leadership duo have restored interest in the five-day game, with their enthralling and attacking approach to red-ball cricket enticing crowds up and down the country.

England started their new era with a 3-0 series whitewash over world Test champions New Zealand, chasing scores of over 250 on each occasion, but saved their best for the rescheduled clash with India.

McCullum's side were set 378 to win by India at Edgbaston and England duly obliged, completing their highest Test chase with relative ease to record a memorable seven-wicket victory.

South Africa are the next to visit in a three-Test series before England tour Pakistan in the longest format of the game, and Key cannot believe the start Stokes has made to life as captain.

"I never thought it would work like this," Key told BBC Test Match Special. "There will be times when it won't work, but for now it's been fantastic to see."

McCullum has previously lamented the use of the term 'Bazball', referencing the New Zealand great's willingness to embrace an attacking approach, and Key suggested he is also uneasy with the phrase.

"I'm not mad on Bazball the phrase," Key added. "It's not something I particularly enjoy because it devalues what Ben and Brendon have done.

"They've been so premeditated almost and methodical in the way they've spoken to people and that's what's made the difference and let them get to this point which is so much more than, 'Oh, we're just going to go out there and look to be positive and play a few shots'.

"Brendon will at times on purpose say to one of the players like Ollie Pope 'I can't get to the ground, give us a lift' and that's when he's doing his work with them.

"There have been all these moments when they have made sure that they've used the right terminology and that's what's bred the confidence."

Key was tasked with transforming English cricket after his appointment as managing director, and his first steps to appoint McCullum appeared somewhat a risk.

McCullum boasted coaching experience in franchise cricket with the Kolkata Knight Riders and Trinbago Knight Riders, yet he had never been in charge of a first-class side despite captaining New Zealand.

"I saw it as though I had two choices," Key added. "Did the England team, the Test team in particular, need someone who was going to be like a drill sergeant, a real hard taskmaster who's going to be really tough on them and try and drive them in that way?

"I felt they needed someone to just take the pressure off them a little bit. I wanted someone who, with the talented players that we had, just freed them up a bit and got them out there to be the best players they possibly can be."

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