The root of their woes

Eng­land need to find an­swers to their prob­lems af­ter dis­as­ter

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

FROM the smiles and roars of ap­proval at Lord’s to the de­spair and heated crit­i­cism at Trent Bridge – Joe Root can at­test, that a week is a long time in Test cricket.

It was South Africa who made some bold moves be­tween Lon­don and here, chang­ing three mem­bers of the start­ing XI – one en­forced – while their cap­tain made a pro­found im­pact.

Faf du Plessis is still rel­a­tively new as a Test skip­per – he’s been in the job less than a year – but he has a firm hand on his team. Root is still earn­ing his stripes, but he needs to show the kind of strength and lead­er­ship Du Plessis pro­vided in the few days lead­ing up to the sec­ond Test.

There are plenty of ques­tions for Root and the Eng­land se­lec­tors to an­swer. One of those may be taken out of Root’s hands af­ter re­ports fil­tered through yes­ter­day that x-rays on Gary Bal­lance’s left hand con­firmed a bro­ken in­dex fin­ger – cour­tesy of a vi­cious ball from Morne Morkel.

Root’s made no se­cret of the fact that he called for Bal­lance’s se­lec­tion in this se­ries. How­ever, scores of 20, 34, 27 and 4 are not the kinds of re­turns ex­pected of a No 3 bats­men and there was a grim in­evitabil­ity about his sec­ond in­nings dis­missal to Vernon Phi­lan­der at Trent Bridge. The tech­ni­cal short­com­ings with his weight on the back­foot, which sees him stuck on the crease, have been bril­liantly ex­ploited by Phi­lan­der and Morkel.

Keaton Jen­nings is another who is bat­tling and talk is that he could drop down to No 3 – Bal­lance would’ve been con­sid­ered at No 5, but it now seems that Tom West­ley will be given a chance, pos­si­bly at No 5, with Mark Stone­man set to be Alas­tair Cook’s 12th open­ing part­ner since An­drew Strauss re­tired in 2012.

As far as their bowl­ing is con­cerned, it seems that Liam Daw­son will re­tain his place in the squad, but whether he starts is de­pen­dent on Eng­land want­ing to play two spin­ners at The Oval. It’s no longer the fast bouncy pitch of yore, but car­ry­ing two spin­ners is a lux­ury and Daw­son in par­tic­u­lar is not wor­thy of such.

Mark Wood is another whose po­si­tion will be un­der the spot­light. While Chris Mor­ris stepped up for the Proteas at Trent Bridge, it was glar­ingly ap­par­ent how much the pres­sure on the South African bats­men de­creased when Wood was brought on to bowl.

Eng­land coach Trevor Bayliss’s de­scribed his team’s per­for­mance at Trent Bridge as a “shocker.” The onus is very much on the hosts and their young cap­tain to show the kind of bold lead­er­ship South Africa dis­played in the short turn­around be­tween Tests one and two. Eng­land have a lot longer to con­sider their next step – the third Test only starts in eight days time.

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