PAUL NEWMAN: Trent Bridge washout gives England captain Joe Root a break… so with the top three under pressure will England now make changes for second Test against India?
- England played India on Sunday on the final day of the first Test at Trent Bridge
- Play was rained-off with India needing 157 for victory with nine wickets left
- Joe Root is convinced his side could have turned things in their favour
Joe Root had the look at Trent Bridge of a man who had got away with one after rain ruined what could have been an exciting finale to the first Test.
The England captain may have been right to suggest a couple of early wickets could easily have changed the course of a last day that seemed to be heading India’s way.
But Virat Kohli has much less to ponder before the sides head to Lord’s for the second instalment on Thursday of a five-Test series that remains a testing examination of England.
The final day of England’s first Test against India has been called-off due to the British weather
Joe Root and coach Chris Silverwood appeared to look over the Trent Bridge pitch on Sunday
Certainly Root seemed more content after this wash-out than before the match when he had the weight of an increasingly troubled world as Test captain on his shoulders.
‘I’d be lying if I said India weren’t in the driving seat going into today,’ admitted Root when play was finally abandoned with India still needing another 157 for victory with nine wickets left.
‘But we know on a pitch like this wickets can fall in clusters and the game can turn on its head. The pressure of batting on the final day could have seen it turn in our favour.
‘At one stage it did look as though the weather would allow us 40 overs and I do think we would have been able to create nine chances in that time on a surface like that.’
The final day was rained-off as fans waited with umbrellas hoping the action would restart
That may be so but the problem for England is not in bowling that can create those chances but top order batting that still sees them perennially chasing the game. And fielding that offers no guarantees they would have taken chances even if offered them.
England only got out of this with honours even after capitulating to 183 all out in their first innings because Root was back to his superlative best in making on Saturday one of the best even of his 21 Test centuries.
And they must again decide whether the time is now right to make changes to a top order that does not look fit for the purpose of making the big first innings runs that are essential to coach Chris Silverwood’s oft-stated game-plan.
Rory Burns may have been England’s player of the series against New Zealand but he made his fourth duck of the year here and struggled against India’s potent seam attack.
Dom Sibley displayed a slightly more orthodox technique but still does not have the shots to do anything other than survive, as he did in this Test for five and a half hours in total for just 46 runs.
But the biggest top three worry is Zak Crawley who, since seemingly announcing himself as a rare talent in making 267 against Pakistan at the Ageas Bowl last summer, averages just 11.14 from 14 innings.
India were in the ascendancy but England’s Joe Root is sure they’d have get back on track
The rejuvenated Haseeb Hameed remains in an enlarged England squad that was selected for the opening two Tests but Root suggested Crawley, along with the other two under threat, may get one more chance at Lord’s.
‘Ultimately you have to be a strong character and I think Zak is that,’ said Root. ‘He has great maturity for a young age. He’s shown everyone he can perform at this level and next time he goes out there he has to remember that and enjoys the opportunity to make big runs again.’
The balance of a side shorn of Ben Stokes is the other pressing item on England’s agenda. Sam Curran may have twice contributed useful lower order runs here but he went wicketless and Root cannot afford to have a passenger among only four bowlers.
So can England add a fifth in Mark Wood or the lesser spotted Jack Leach by leaving out one of the other under-performing batsmen in Jonny Bairstow or Dan Lawrence and risk further weakening the batting? Or simply replace Curran and stick to a four-bowler policy?
Virat Kohli will have fewer worries than his England counterpart ahead of the second Test
‘It’s something we’ve got to keep looking at,’ said Root. ‘We want to try to find something sensible sooner rather than later and depending on conditions we might have to alter our side at Lord’s.
‘You want continuity but whether it’s rest and rotation, injuries or Covid that’s something we’ve not had. They’ve been a lot of obstacles to overcome.’
There is one player, of course, who could solve the question of balance and bring spin back to the side in Moeen Ali and his absence continues to be something of a mystery.
Unless England add to their squad today – and Root did not totally rule it out – Moeen’s exile will remain, as will many of England’s problems.
A rain-ruined draw and the emergence of a bowler of real Test quality in Ollie Robinson to help ease the blow of the absence of Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes has not altered that.