1:05 AM IST
Andrew MillerUK editor, ESPNcricinfo
- Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England’s historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate – it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
Joe Denly’s Test career would appear to be over after he was omitted from England’s squad for the second Test at Emirates Old Trafford, while James Anderson has been rested on his home ground alongside Mark Wood, in a rejig of their fast-bowling attack given the short turnaround between contests.
Root missed England’s four-wicket defeat in the first Test at the Ageas Bowl, but returns to the fray as captain after attending the birth of his second child, as his team seeks a means to avoid their first home series defeat against West Indies since 1988.
England did not confirm their final 13-man squad until late on Wednesday aftenoon, with Anderson understood to be sore after bowling 40 overs in his first match back after injury, and Wood also being monitored given his history of niggles. Sam Curran has been added to the squad, alongside the Sussex seamer Ollie Robinson, for whom this represents a first call-up to England’s senior squad.
England’s preparations were hampered by rain in Manchester that forced the team to train indoors, and by a lively practice wicket on Tuesday that restricted their opportunities to assess the form and fitness of their quicks, and Root conceded there had been “a few areas to shore up” before any final decisions could be made.
“We’ll have to have another look at the wicket, and there’s a few things we have to clear up in-house,” Root said in England’s pre-match press conference, prior to the squad announcement, “making sure everyone pulls up as we would like, and being really clear on what’s the best thing for the team over these five days.
Anderson, who turns 38 at the end of the month, needs another 13 wickets to become the first seamer to reach 600 Test wickets. He was the pick of England’s seamers in the first innings at the Ageas Bowl, claiming 3 for 62 in 25 overs, but went wicketless second time around as West Indies sealed victory on the final day.
Anderson’s omission for the first of two back-to-back games at his home ground means that he will have missed 10 of England’s last 14 Tests in the last 12 months, dating back to Ireland’s visit to Lord’s last July. Only once in that period has he attempted back-to-back games, the second Test against South Africa at Cape Town, where he broke down in the second innings after claiming 5 for 40 in the first.
The situation means a probable recall for Stuart Broad, who expressed his displeasure at being overlooked for the first Test despite having been England’s stand-out seamer in both last summer’s Ashes series and the winter tour of South Africa where he claimed 14 wickets at 19.42 in the 3-1 series win. Chris Woakes could also make his first appearance of the summer, with all 22 of England’s players obliged to remain within the team environment due to the bio-secure arrangements for the series.
“I think there’s challenges that present themselves in this Covid era,” Root added. “With the games coming around quickly, managing bowlers is going to be quite important. Getting the balance right with a few of them coming back from injury, it’s about making the right calls at the right times. We are blessed with a number of guys who haven’t played or weren’t in the squad who’ve averaged 20 in the last couple of years in English conditions.”
Anderson and Broad have played alongside one another for 116 Tests since 2007-08, claiming 883 wickets in tandem out of a combined total of 1072. But as both men approach the latter stages of their careers, Root conceded that their opportunities to extend that joint record could be limited in the coming months.
“With Stuart and Jimmy, trying to maximise their careers is really important to make sure they are playing for as long as possible,” he said. “If that has to be slightly different to how it has been over the last few years, then we might have to think outside the box and not play them in every game or not play them together all the time.
“That is not to say it won’t happen again. They are two world-class performers and we are very, very lucky to have them. I think to wish that away early or to push them to one side would be stupid, I really do. [But] I think we’ve got to deal with it well and be smart with it and we will find opportunities to play other guys, too.”
Root’s pre-match press conference was pushed back by 90 minutes, partly to enable the captain to have a bat given the weather restrictions, leading to speculation about England’s selection issues. However, all the signs in the build-up to the match had pointed to Denly being dropped. His scores of 18 and 29 at the Ageas Bowl were the 23rd and 24th occasions in 28 Test innings that he has reached double figures, but he has converted those starts to just six fifties in 15 Tests, with a highest score of 94 and an overall average of 29.53.
“Over a period of time Joe has done a brilliant job for us,” said Root. “He has helped show the identity of our side, how we want to play moving forward. He has laid the platform for guys behind to go on and make big scores.
“I think he’ll be just as frustrated as anyone that he’s not managed to quite convert those opportunities,” Root added. “But certainly the door’s not closed. He’s been a big part of our squad for some time now. He gets if he gets an opportunity to come back again, then I’m sure he’ll be desperate to take it.”
Zak Crawley, by contrast, has improved his career-best score in each of his five Tests to date, and top-scored for England in the first Test with a second-innings 76. At 22, he is a full 12 years younger than Denly, and is set to make his first start for England at No.3, having debuted in New Zealand at No.6, featured as an opener in South Africa, and slotted into Root’s No.4 berth at the Ageas Bowl.
“You watch Zak’s progression since he’s been involved in the team, his game has continued to get stronger,” said Root.
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England squad for second Test: Joe Root (capt), Jofra Archer, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes.
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