England make key changes for Pakistan Tests


-Captain Joe Root ready to take on ‘more responsibility’ at number 3

LONDON: England has made a key change for Pakistan Tests as captain Joe Root will “take on a bit more responsibility” by batting at number three.

Root has been number four in all but one of his side’s matches since August 2017, but is set to move up a spot in the first Test starting on Thursday.

“I’ve had a year in the captaincy now and I feel I’ve gained enough experience to feel comfortable,” said the England Test captain in an interview.

Joe Root, England’s Test captain, says he is ready to move back to the No.3 position in the batting order and take on “a bit more responsibility” following a disappointing winter for his team.

England lost a Test to the Windies at home before winning the three-match series 2-1 in August-September 2017 and then lost the Ashes in Australia 4-0 and a two-Test series in New Zealand 1-0.

Root batted at No.4 in all but one of those matches and hasn’t scored a century since the first Test against the Windies, even though he has crossed 50 eight times in that period.

With the top order, including England’s all-time leading run-scorer Alastair Cook, struggling for runs, the plan is to have Root return to No.3 in the forthcoming series against Pakistan in a bid to stabilise the batting.

Root has had success at both No.3 and No.4, as well as at No.5 in the early part of his career, but since taking over the captaincy from Cook, he has preferred the No.4 slot even though Trevor Bayliss, the England coach, has called No.3 Root’s best position.

With James Vince dropped for the first Test against Pakistan at Lord’s starting on Thursday 24 May, Root will go back to No.3 and is relishing the opportunity. “It’s an opportunity for me to take on a bit more responsibility,” he said. “I’ve had a year in the captaincy now and I feel I’ve gained enough experience to feel comfortable doing that.

“For me it was about getting used to the captaincy and making sure I could separate the two; that my full focus was on my batting when it came around. Ultimately, nothing will change the way I go about my batting. I will look to have that hunger and desire to make really big runs.”

Jos Buttler has returned to the Test squad and is set to bat at No.7, with Jonny Bairstow retaining the big gloves and moving up to No.5.

For Buttler, whose last Test match appearance came in December 2016, it will be a chance to prove that he is more than just a white-ball cricketer.

“It is really important Jos does not put too much pressure on himself,” said Root. “It is about expressing himself and finding consistency. It is exciting but it might take a bit of time to come right. If he bats for any period of time, especially the way he’s played recently, it’s going to be very exciting.”

Following the Lord’s Test, England and Pakistan will play one more Test – at Headingley from 1 June – before the visiting side travels to Edinburgh to play two Twenty20 Internationals against Scotland.