Ahead of the second Test against India at Lord’s, England captain Joe Root stated that the nerve-wrecking 31-run victory in the Test series opener at Edgbaston has lifted the confidence of the home team. Root also admitted that England were not at their best in the first Test and will look to improve the certain areas of their game.
“It (the win at Birmingham) fills you with masses of confidence. One of the most exciting things about last week is that we weren’t at our best, certainly areas we can improve, but we found a way to win under pressure, and wrestle momentum back in our favour,” Root quoted while addressing the press conference on the eve of the second Test.
“That’s a sign of some strong characters in our dressing room. And having had some indifferent results in the recent past, to pull off a win like that is a really good sign for us moving forward. If we can make small improvements in certain areas, and add that to where we were good last week, we will see some improvements from last week,” he added.
England boast a very fine record in red-ball cricket at home but they haven’t been able to replicate the same at Lord’s. In their last 9 Tests at the Home of Cricket, England have managed to win just three.
“Every time you turn up here the surfaces can be quite different. At the start of the summer we were below par and it would be easy to look too far into that, but against South Africa there was a lot of spin and against India (in 2014) spin came into it a lot in the second innings. That might play a big factor. We’ll have to wait to see what the surface looks like tomorrow morning but ultimately on the last couple of occasions, whoever has played well in the first innings has managed to contain that threat through the rest of the game. So we have to start well and try to stay on top if we can,” Root remarked.
England are all set to hand a Test cap to 20-year-old Oliver Pope at Lord’s. Pope, who plays first-class cricket for Surrey, will bat at the crucial No. 4 position. Root will wait until toss to decide whether to play a second spinner in Moeen Ali or an extra pacer in Chris Woakes.
“With the surface as it is, having looked at it today, we’re going to leave it another 24 hours and then make a decision in the morning. I’m not sure, having played quite a lot here, if it will change a huge amount. But we just want to make sure, be really clear, that going into the game we can be really confident we’ve got the best 11 players to take 20 wickets on that surface. So we’ll turn up tomorrow, see if it looks any different, and then make that decision,” Root asserted.
Although India’s batting line-up failed to live up to the expectations, bowlers came to the party once again. Continuing where they left off in South Africa, Indian bowlers claimed 20 English wickets, with off-spinner R Ashwin picking up seven wickets in the match and Ishant Sharma taking five-wicket haul in the second innings.
When asked about their game plan to counter Ashwin and Ishant, the England captain said, “They are two fine players and one of the reasons why India have been successful is they have some brilliant experienced players to call upon. The guys have thought quite clearly about how to try and get each individual out, and practise accordingly, and that’s all you can ask from your team."
“We’ve prepared as much as possible and feel like we’re in a good position coming into the game. Opposition players are allowed to play well and they definitely did that at Edgbaston, so it’s just about combatting that as a team and making sure that when we get our opportunities to go big, someone takes the game by the scruff of the neck,” he explained.
Both sides were also terrible in the slip cordon. England spilled four catches, including the centurion Kohli on 21 by Dawid Malan in the first innings. Root said catching is an important aspect of Test cricket and they will have to work on it.
“It’s a crucial part of Test cricket, especially India being such a good side you have to take those chances,” he stated.
The English skipper feels it will be important to manage his counterpart at the crease, in terms of keeping him away from strike, like they did in the second innings at Edgbaston.
“Virat’s a fine player and it shows when you give the best players opportunities they don’t need many more. On that last morning he batted 55 minutes and he faced 13-14 balls. It was very skilful to be able to manipulate him off the strike and starve him of facing the majority of deliveries. And in the first innings, to create two half-chances and two clear chances was testament to how we’ve got good plans against him and found a way to potentially get him out. Nice to know we are doing the right things, but it’s about taking those chances when they come,” Root concluded.
(With PTI inputs)