Tom Haines wants to demonstrate the England culture under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum can trickle down into the second string Lions in Sri Lanka.
Captain Stokes and head coach McCullum have revolutionised England’s approach to Tests and boast nine wins in 10 matches after taking over a team that had triumphed just once in the preceding 17 attempts.
England’s boundless enthusiasm is rubbing off on those down the chain and the instruction from on-high to attempt to replicate an attack-minded philosophy has been gobbled up by opening batter Haines.
Sussex’s captain hopes to advance his claims for a senior England call-up in two four-day Tests for the Lions against Sri Lanka A at Galle, a series which starts at the end of this month.
“I just want to learn the environment that is coming down from Brendon and Stokesy in the first team,” Haines told the PA news agency. “They’re going to try and pull it down into the teams below.
“It’s really exciting. To be a part of that would be really good fun. I’d like to think I’m quite an attacking batter anyway, I like to put pressure on the bowlers and that’s exactly what they want.
“They just want batters to realise when to put pressure on the other bowlers and when to absorb pressure. That’s the only message they said to us.
“To have that so plain and simple, it allows you to go and work on your game. It’s so simple and it’s a very nice and clear message to have.”
Haines got a close-up view of the Stokes-McCullum axis as part of the Lions squad shadowing England pre-Christmas and amassed 82 off 100 balls in a warm-up against an attack including James Anderson, Ollie Robinson and Jack Leach.
It was a continuation of the form that has seen him average 48.1 in the County Championship since the start of 2021, which had Rob Key purring as just before his appointment as England men’s director of cricket last April, he tweeted that Haines “looks a bloody good player”.
Despite Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett striking up a successful opening partnership in Pakistan, with an Ashes looming this year, Haines and the rest of the England Lions have an extra incentive to push on.
“We want to play for England and I think for the whole Lions group that is the motivator,” he said.
“We want to buy into how this England team are playing, show our skills and play for England – that’s everyone’s goal. It’s definitely a motivator for all of us.”
Haines has worked on improving his game against spin alongside former internationals Ian Bell and Grant Flower in anticipation of Galle’s turning tracks, which he is unused to facing as an opener in England.
The 24-year-old admitted he has to get used to all kinds of surfaces if he is to make the grade in future and recognises how problematic the openers’ berths have been for England for over a decade.
“There’s probably only one man in Alastair Cook who’s nailed it down for a number of years,” he said.
“It does show you it’s a tough role but all I can do is keep scoring runs in that position and then see where it gets me. It’s a dream of mine to play for England, for sure.”
Doing so alongside Sussex team-mates Robinson and Jofra Archer is another ambition. Archer has recently returned to action after almost 18 months out with elbow and back injuries.
“We did some training out in the UAE with him before Christmas, I faced him a few times and I knew he was going to come back and come back strong because it was horrible to face,” Haines said.
“It’s brilliant to see him back and I’m just really pleased for him.”