On the eve of the fourth Test against India at the Ageas Bowl, England captain Joe Root has said that his side is fully capable of bouncing back from the annihilating defeat suffered in the third Test at Trent Bridge.
India secured a comprehensive 203-run victory over England in the Nottingham Test to stay alive in the five-Test series, trailing 2-1 going into the fourth Test, starting on Thursday (August 30).
“We under-performed last week, that’s the bottom line. One of our big strengths as a squad is our strength of character and, at home in particular, we’re very good at bouncing back from difficult weeks,” Root said while addressing the media on Wednesday.
“We’ve done it time and time again before. And I don’t expect anything less form the group this time as well,” he added.
The English skipper also revealed that mercurial all-rounder Ben Stokes is not fully fit to carry out his bowling responsibilities in the fourth Test, which has led to the inclusion of Moeen Ali in the playing XI.
“There’s two changes to the team from last week. Sam Curran comes in for Chris Woakes – he’s not fit to play this time around – and with Ben not being 100 per cent in terms of the amount he can bowl and the balance of the side, Moeen comes in for Ollie Pope,” Root asserted.
He also confirmed that Jonny Bairstow, who suffered a blow in his finger during the Nottingham Test, will play as a specialist batsman and bat at number four with Jos Buttler taking the wicketkeeping responsibilities.
“With a slight fracture it’s the safest thing to do is for Jonny to play just as a batter. He is fit to bat and will bat at four this week. He’s fully aware that it’s a lot to ask him to keep with a broken finger. Well, a slight crack in it. It was a medical call. He didn’t seem fit to be able to keep in a Test for five days. And that was the call that was made. He will be disappointed but ultimately we’ve got to do the best thing for this team to win this game,” Root said.
The England captain also backed the under-performing Alastair Cook, who is England's all-time record run-scorer in Tests, but averages only 19.21 with the bat in 2018.
“I remember being sat in the dressing room (in 2014) almost a little bit emotional for him. That was the feeling within the group, how much he means to the squad. We are fully aware of what he’s capable of doing. It was nice to have that support heard from outside the four walls of the changing room. Think he got 95 caught down the leg side (in 2014),” Root remarked.
“It’s been frustrating, but this is another opportunity to put it right. There are a lot of very hungry guys to do that. Having seen Jos go and score a Test century, and how much that means to him, hopefully that drives other guys on too,” he concluded.
(With PTI inputs)