Eng­land will miss in­spi­ra­tion of Stokes on and off the field

Root laments ab­sence of a player who ‘sees things I don’t’ But­tler and Burns ex­pected to step up into lead­er­ship roles

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport / Second Test - By Nick Hoult CHIEF CRICKET COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Life without Ben Stokes has not al­ways been a prob­lem for Eng­land. They have won the past three Tests Stokes has missed, two by an in­nings, and if they make it a fourth this week at the Ageas Bowl then it will de­liver a first se­ries vic­tory over Pak­istan for a decade.

Stokes leaves a big hole, of course, not just for his bat­ting and bowl­ing, both of which have res­cued Eng­land this sum­mer, but the off-field lead­er­ship he brings to the squad. They were a shadow of their usual selves when he missed the last Ashes tour and Joe Root used phrases like “huge loss for us” and “we’ll miss him dearly” when asked about his deputy head­ing back to New Zealand for per­sonal rea­sons,

Oth­ers look up to him, want to em­u­late his will to win and many less-tal­ented play­ers will spend their re­tire­ment years talk­ing about their time shar­ing a dress­ing room with Stokes, a lit­tle like Sir Ian Botham’s for­mer col­leagues do now. Since his Bris­tol court case, Stokes has em­braced re­spon­si­bil­ity, learnt hu­mil­ity and how to bet­ter un­der­stand play­ers not as good as him. He has be­come a crutch for some, in­clud­ing Jofra Archer, who used his news­pa­per col­umn this week to pay trib­ute to Stokes, thank­ing him for check­ing up on him every evening dur­ing his five days of soli­tary con­fine­ment for break­ing Covid re­stric­tions.

It is no­table that Archer pro­duced his fiercest spell this sum­mer when Stokes was in charge in Root’s ab­sence for the first Test against West In­dies. He also took the re­spon­si­bil­ity that week of telling Stu­art Broad he was not play­ing, sit­ting down and ex­plain­ing the rea­sons why. On the field it is the cir­cle of three – keeper Jos But­tler, Root at first slip, Stokes at sec­ond – who run the team. An­der­son and Broad are in­volved, too, but have to think about bowl­ing first and fore­most.

With Stokes ab­sent, But­tler will take on more, step­ping up as vice­cap­tain. Rory Burns, Sur­rey cap­tain, will also be ex­pected to chip in tac­ti­cally. “He is some­one who thinks out­side the box. He looks at the game well and sees things I don’t,” said Root on Stokes.

“As a pair, be­tween us we come up with dif­fer­ent ideas, have op­tions, and that’s a good place to be – you don’t want a yes man. Other than that, lead­ing from the front. We know what an in­flu­ence he is but for us to be the best side we can be, we now need more knowl­edge of what it’s like when he’s not there be­cause there will be times when he’s in­jured or sim­i­lar.”

But­tler’s work ethic is from the Stokes mould. Of­ten they run

to­gether around the out­field after play and But­tler has re­acted to his poor keep­ing in Manch­ester by work­ing with the Mer­lyn spin bowl­ing ma­chine, in­vented 15 years ago to com­bat Shane Warne and Mut­tiah Mu­ralitha­ran. But­tler has set it for left-handed bats­men, try­ing to cor­rect a tech­ni­cal fault that caused his missed stump­ing and dropped catch off Shan Ma­sood last week when he stood up to Dom Bess. What Mer­lyn can­not repli­cate is the hours of con­cen­tra­tion needed to keep wicket. But­tler will have to solve that him­self.

Root con­firmed yes­ter­day that An­der­son would play, a wise tac­tic recog­nis­ing a wounded leg­end can be very dan­ger­ous. It is a big week for An­der­son. Broad has set the bar for old-timers with a point to prove. He can­not af­ford to have an­other poor game like he did in Manch­ester but the Ageas Bowl sur­face is green, sug­gest­ing An­der­son and Broad have got what they wanted after be­ing an­gry with a turn­ing pitch last week.

It looks likely Eng­land will make only one change when the game starts to­day, with Zak Craw­ley re­plac­ing Stokes. A four-day Test last week helped, so did the fact Eng­land bat­ted on the fi­nal day so the bowlers have had ex­tra rest. Mark Wood has a “knock” ac­cord­ing to Root and Eng­land are al­ways re­luc­tant to risk him when not 100 per cent fit. Jack Leach was not even named in the 14 so Bess keeps his place. Ol­lie Robin­son may have to wait longer for a de­but. If Eng­land win this week and wrap up the se­ries, it will give them a chance to ex­per­i­ment next week with play­ers such as Robin­son, espe­cially with An­der­son and Broad due a rest.

Root clearly wants Archer to trust him say­ing he will “keep giv­ing him op­por­tu­ni­ties to show off how good a player he is”.

Root is eye­ing a sev­enth con­sec­u­tive vic­tory as cap­tain, show­ing how quickly things have turned since he lost the first Test to New Zealand in Novem­ber and looked vul­ner­a­ble for the first time. His record of 23 wins is one short of Alas­tair Cook and An­drew Strauss, and from con­sid­er­ably fewer matches. The fact Root has lost 15 Tests, four more than Strauss and Michael Vaughan, shows the prob­lem of in­con­sis­tency and also re­cent re­sult pitches in Eng­land.

Storms are forecast and the se­ries is hot­ting up. Tem­pers were frayed in the first Test and Broad landed a fine. Aside from the jokes about his fa­ther, Chris, pun­ish­ing him, it has left Broad in a se­ri­ous po­si­tion. He is now one de­merit point from a ban. Pak­istan, un­like West In­dies, have five bowlers, so the work­load was spread last week leav­ing them con­fi­dent they can pick the same at­tack without run­ning out of en­ergy. All four Tests this sum­mer have been ab­sorb­ing af­fairs.

There is no rea­son to think that will change this week given both sides have clear frail­ties with the bat and strong bowl­ing at­tacks.

Stokes’s ab­sence will give Pak­istan some ex­tra be­lief, too.

Eng­land play­ers used foot­balls to lim­ber up dur­ing prepa­ra­tions for the sec­ond Test at the Ageas Bowl yes­ter­day. Foot­ball matches were banned in­def­i­nitely by the man­age­ment dur­ing the win­ter tour of South Africa after Rory Burns joined the list of those in­jured, fol­low­ing a tackle by Joe Root. The opener (top left) was among those show­ing off his skills yes­ter­day be­fore a net ses­sion, along with (from top) Mark Wood, Ol­lie Pope and Zak Craw­ley.

Fancy foot­work – well, so much for the foot­ball ban

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