LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 23: England captain Joe Root and Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed hold the NatWest series trophy at Lord's Cricket Ground on May 23, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

England vs Pakistan: Joe Root Speaks To The Press

There was an electric atmosphere around Lord’s this afternoon as England and Pakistan continued their preparations ahead of the first Test starting tomorrow. Although the shocking news of AB de Villiers’s sudden retirement was announced, the focus nevertheless remained on the upcoming Test series. Both captains were optimistic and in good spirits as they spoke to the press.

Interestingly, there is still an air of uncertainty over England’s starting XI for tomorrow. Joe Root did confirm that Dominic Bess will be making his debut but says that the final XI has not been decided. He remarked:

“we are going to make that decision tomorrow morning… we need to make sure we have the right attack to best exploit the conditions”

It seems that the debate over Mark Wood vs Chris Woakes is still being pondered in the England camp.

Root was also asked about England’s batting line-up and in particular the worrying form of Alastair Cook. However, Root was seemingly unfazed by Cook’s poor start to the year saying:

“As far as I’m aware I can see him playing for another few years at least”

This shows his faith in England’s all-time run scorer and he noted that Cook was a key part of England’s success. Root said “when he scores runs it correlates with us doing well” and said that he was hoping for him to “have a strong summer”.

While Cook provides unwavering solidarity at the top of the order, the dynamic of the England team will change with the return of the blistering and enigmatic Jos Buttler. The hard-hitting middle order batsman turned heads in the IPL when he scored five consecutive centuries for the Rajasthan Royals and he stole the attention of the Indian media.

In a previous article I was highly critical of Buttler’s selection and I asked Joe Root what impact this call could have on county cricket, would it encourage more English players to join the IPL?

“Jos is a very individual case… he adds something in that position that no many players out there can… if you look at the damage he can potentially do at the back end of the innings… he can do a lot for the team”

Root defended the selection by saying that it was not fair to say that Buttler was picked off the back of his IPL form but rather it was a personal selection based on the individual. He also went on to give a piece of advice to county players looking for England selection: “my message to guys playing county cricket is to continue working hard”.
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Another player back in the spotlight for England is Ben Stokes, who is now fully fit and can bowl continued spells. Stokes had been playing the IPL alongside Buttler for the Rajasthan Royals but did not have as much success. Nevertheless, Root was delighted to have him back:

“Ben obviously brings a lot and is focused on performing well… he adds a lot to this team… its great to have him back”

Watching Stokes in the nets, it was clear that he has a point to prove. He was striking the ball well and looked very comfortable with the bat. It is clear that his court case later on in the summer is firmly at the back of his mind.

Root was full of respect for the Pakistan side. It was clear that he viewed them as a serious challenge and that it was not going to be an easy outing for England. He said the following about the young Pakistan side:

“I think its a good side… they have some world class players…. we are expecting a really strong Pakistan to come out and play us”

The Lord’s pitch is said to be very green and is likely to offer lateral movement early on and offer a lot for the seamers. Root acknowledged this in saying that Pakistan’s attack are certainly going “to exploit the English conditions” and acknowledged that Mohammad Amir could be troubling. Despite picking up an injury against Ireland, Amir seems to now be fully fit and could play tomorrow.
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The last time Pakistan came to Lord’s in 2016, they beat England courtesy of a man of the match performance from Yasir Shah. The leg-spinner took ten wickets in the match as England suffered a 75 run defeat in the Home of Cricket. Although Yasir has been ruled out with injury, his replacement Shadab Khan promises to be no less fearsome. Indeed, the Lord’s pitch is likely to be conducive to turn as the days progress and the layer of grass is reduced. Root recalled his previous encounters with the player:

“I faced Shadab last summer in the Champions Trophy and he has obviously had a good couple of years for Pakistan and in domestic tournaments around the world”

England’s captain went on to call him “a good bowler” and described his main asset as being “a good googly” and his ability to attack the stumps particularly in the first innings. So what is England’s way to combat his threat? Root said that the key was “to do to the research” and look at the possible ways in which he will look to unsettle the England side.

So, the series is set to be an intriguing battle between two new-look sides. How will Jos Buttler and Dominic Bess fare for England? Can Pakistan repeat their 2016 heroics? Is Shadab Khan the new Yasir Shah? All of these questions will be answered over the next five days.

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