Joe Root resists temptation to pair Broad and Anderson with heavy itinerary still to come
England will make a call between the pace of Olly Stone and the control of Chris Woakes as they decide on an XI for the second Test in Chennai, with Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad and Ben Foakes confirmed as replacements for Dom Bess, James Anderson and Jos Buttler.
Joe Root named a 12-man squad in his press conference on Friday morning, with the decision as to which seamer comes into the side to replace the injured Jofra Archer to be made after England’s training session. Stone, who is the quickest available bowler in England’s squad, can hit speeds in excess of 90mph/145kph and is the closest like-for-like replacement for Archer, while Woakes would lengthen their batting line-up and provide greater control.
With Buttler returning home as part of England’s rotation policy and Archer ruled out with an elbow injury, England were forced to make at least two changes. And Root confirmed that they would make four: Anderson has been rested ahead of the day-night Test in Ahmedabad, and Bess has been dropped after an inconsistent showing in the first Test. Stone has not played for England in any format since his Test debut against Ireland in July 2019, while Woakes is yet to make an appearance this winter after playing five out of six home Tests last summer.
“There’s two different ways we can go,” Root said. “We can have the same balance [in the] side in terms of straight like-for-like swaps with Stone and Broad coming in for Archer and Anderson, or Woakes could come into things as well which adds to the batting and obviously gives us a huge amount of control with the ball.
“We will make those decisions off the back of today, look at the wicket, get a bit more information a day out, and either way it looks like we have a very strong squad on this wicket.”
Root admitted that he had been tempted to back Anderson to play what would have been his third Test in four weeks following his devastating spell of reverse-swing bowling on the final day of the first Test, but said that his omission was a reflection of England’s desire to keep him fit for the rest of the series.
Anderson had vowed to put his “name in the hat” for selection in the second Test after his match-winning efforts in the first, but England have instead opted to continue their ploy of fielding only one of him and Broad in a single side this winter.
“”It gives him [Anderson] the best opportunity to be fit and available for those last two games,” Root said. “Everyone’s heart was in favour of him being available for this game but also you have to look at the bigger picture and ideally if he is available for two of the last three, that is a huge asset for us [with] the way he is bowling and his reputation, as well as his numbers and the way he has performed in recent games.”
While it may come as a surprise to see England make four changes on the back of a dominant 227-run win in the first Test, Root said that it demonstrated their depth and their desire to be proactive rather than reactive in ensuring that their bowlers remain fresh throughout the tour.
“It’s really important that we go into every game with the attack that we think is best going to exploit 20 wickets [sic] and get the best out of the surface. Whether that comes down to freshness, or making sure that over a series, guys are going to get through with the quick turnaround and the amount of workload that there is in this part of the world… you have to factor everything into it.
“We’ve seen since Covid that the number of injuries has probably gone up around world cricket, and we’re trying to stay ahead of that and look after our players, and make sure that guys can get through a Test match and keep adding [to the side], not seeing performances dip off throughout. When you’ve got guys on the sidelines like Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad and Moeen Ali coming into this game, proven performers in Test cricket, that’s an exciting place to be.
“Someone like Stoney, he hasn’t played a huge amount of cricket but has so much potential and excitement about what he can bring to the fore. It’s taken a huge amount of time to build this squad up, but now we’ve got the opportunity to utilise it all and to have that freshness going into games like this. They’ve got a great chance now to show what they can do in an England shirt.”
Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood both arrived back in India on Friday, having flown home to rest after the series in Sri Lanka, but Sam Curran has been given a few extra days of down-time. Root confirmed that Foakes will keep wicket in the rest of the series barring injury, and that Bairstow will be considered exclusively as a specialist batsman.
Root also said that he expects Archer to be “fully fit and ready to go for the rest of the series” after missing the second Test, and predicted that Ben Stokes would have a bigger role to play with the ball in the second Test after getting through 10 overs across both innings of the first.
“He can provide that aggression and it looks like he’s getting fitter and stronger the more he gets into the tour,” Root said. “We had to be quite smart about him in the last game – he looked a bit uncomfortable at times – but the more and more he bowled in each spell he looked more comfortable.
“I think he will go from strength to strength as you normally see from Ben – the more he gets into a series the more you get from him. You can bet that in those big moments, he will be the one asking for the ball, trying to change things and make a real impact. It is very exciting that there is more from him to come.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98