Joe Root not taking his eye off the ball ahead of third Test

David Charlesworth, PA

Joe Root is wary of being seduced into thinking the balance could tilt in England’s favour by the third Test against India being a day-night affair as he is convinced spin will be a factor at some point this week.

England won the opener in Chennai but were beaten at the same venue last time out, humbled by spin duo Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel on a surface that turned almost from the off, as India levelled the four-match series.

There are many unknowns ahead of the penultimate fixture at Ahmedabad as India have only ever hosted one pink-ball Test and, on that occasion, the home side’s seamers took all of the Bangladesh wickets in November 2019 in Kolkata.

Joe Root, left, is wary of the spin they may face in the third Test but Ben Stokes, right, is more optimistic (Nick Potts/PA)
Joe Root, left, is wary of the spin they may face in the third Test but Ben Stokes, right, is more optimistic (Nick Potts/PA)

Ben Stokes ramped up expectation as he divulged James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer have been “licking their lips”, adding net practice had to be halted when the lights came on as bowling became “really dangerous”.

Root, though, is braced for spin playing its part and the England captain has called on his side to learn lessons from the second Test, where no touring batsman accumulated more than Moeen Ali’s 49 runs across two innings.

“It’s going to spin at some point, it’s just a question of when,” he said. “That’s always the case when we come here. We experienced it very early in the last Test, it might not be the case quite so much this time around.

“Playing against India in the subcontinent you expect the ball to spin. We have to make sure we are in the best place to manage that.

“If they (India) go in with a similarly balanced team we should be mentally prepared for that and we should have put the work in this week which, from what I have seen, the guys have certainly done.

“If it is more seam-orientated then the experience of growing up in English conditions should be in our favour and it is about handling those conditions as best we can and try to exploit them with ball in hand.”

While Stokes admitted conditions at practice might be wholly different to ones they will be confronted with when the Test starts on Wednesday, the talismanic all-rounder is optimistic after what he saw in the nets on Sunday.

“Broady, Jimmy and Jofra have been licking their lips,” he told talkSPORT. “It’s been a completely different game. Whether that’s going to be similar in the middle we’re not sure.

“When the lights came on, the nets actually got really dangerous. The bowlers had to stop bowling in the nets because we were actually worried that some of the batters were going to get injured.”

Archer has confirmed his availability after having a cortisone injection on his elbow and while Root was keeping his cards close to his chest in terms of selection, the Yorkshireman said: “Jofra brings something very unique.

Root, right, apologised for his choice of wording about Moeen Ali, left, departing the touring group (Jason O’Brien/PA)
Root, right, apologised for his choice of wording about Moeen Ali, left, departing the touring group (Jason O’Brien/PA)

“He can do things others can’t and he is a very exciting prospect in that manner. If he is fully fit and going to be able to operate 100 per cent it would absolutely be great seeing him back out there playing.

“But we have to factor in everything when it comes to selection and make sure we feel we have the right combination to tackle the surface in front of us.”

Chris Woakes will leave the touring party at the end of the Test as part of England’s rotation policy, which came under scrutiny last week after Root told a press conference Moeen had “chosen” to depart.

Having privately apologised to Moeen, Root reiterated his regret at his wording on the eve of the third Test, where England will have to make at least one change, with Dom Bess possibly coming back into the team.

“I made a complete mistake,” he said. “That was my bad, I got that completely wrong. It wasn’t a true reflection of what had happened and it left it open to interpretation, which was unfair on Moeen.

“I was very quick to apologise to him. He shouldn’t have been put in that position, so that’s completely my fault.”

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