England pick Hussain for key role at No 3

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As another Test series prepares to break into full swing, England's selectors continue to befuddle everyone by being bold and incisive. Yesterday they informed Nasser Hussain that he was to bat at No 3, a spot that has caused more than its fair share of bother in recent years, and one Hussain came to almost by accident when he swapped his No 4 spot at Essex with Mark Waugh when the Australian came back jaded after a hectic winter.

Bogy position or not, Hussain was clearly pleased and feels he is better equipped now than when he made his Test debut against the West Indies in 1990. The decisive timing of the announcement has clearly helped calm any nerves, and is a clear message from those concerned that they think he is the man for the job.

Despite his seven Test caps, it is still important to receive a confidence booster, particularly after so much post-selection speculation over the role had centred on John Crawley, who may find himself at six or, even worse, carrying the drinks.

"I'm very happy batting at three," Hussain said after another of David Lloyd's fielding sessions. "It's where I've been now for a while, first with Essex and then with England A in the winter. But, if I'm honest, at the moment I'd be happy to bat anywhere."

A few years ago, Hussain was anything but a picture of happiness after a dressing-room row with Mark Ilott during a county game led to him being dropped by Essex. "That's all in the past now," Hussain insisted. "In any case," he continued with wry grin, "as vice-captain [of Essex] I'm allowed to say things now that I perhaps wasn't allowed to in the past."

Removing the tempest from the tempestuous heart is never easy, but giving Hussain authority seems to have done the trick. "Being given the A team captaincy definitely picked me up. I really enjoyed the responsibility and the tour. Captaincy gets you thinking about other aspects of the game instead of just worrying about your own, which is what I was doing too much of."

Lloyd, England's coach, thinks it is a golden opportunity for Hussain to make the position his own, and rejects the theory that it is a difficult position to bat and Hussain is merely the latest in a long line of scapegoats.

"I've always felt he was a good, aggressive player. You can tell he's been brought up in a decent dressing-room. You can tell he's had his opinions and that he's probably had his backside kicked too. But, that aside, we really liked the shape of the team, with Nasser at three."

Shape is something Hussain has worked hard to achieve since being dropped at the end of the West Indies tour two years ago. He admits to letting his technique go. "I remember seeing myself on video and thinking: 'Do I really move around that much.' I needed to work hard and I've done that at Essex for last two seasons with Graham Gooch and Keith Fletcher. But, in fact, the hard work really only starts now."

Cork's burden, page 23