Joe Root has been England’s batting linchpin against Sri Lanka and India this winter but Graham Thorpe believes it is time for others to come to the fore and lighten the load on the Test captain’s shoulders.
Root is averaging 90.37 in four Tests this year, with first-innings scores of 228 and 186 laying the groundwork for a 2-0 win in Sri Lanka while another double ton went a long way to helping England upset the odds in the series opener against India.
There have been supporting roles, most noticeably when Dom Sibley battled his way to 87 in the first Test in Chennai, but Root’s first misstep on the subcontinent coincided with a crushing 317-run defeat as India levelled the series last week.
No touring batsman accumulated more than Moeen Ali’s 49 runs across two innings, magnifying Root’s importance to England ahead of the pink-ball Test, which gets under way on Wednesday at the newly-built Sardar Patel Stadium.
But Thorpe has called on the rest of the top-order to relieve some of the burden on Root in Ahmedabad this week. Asked how crucial it was for someone to do so, the England assistant coach replied: “Very important.
“Joe has been in really good form this winter but it is important. We constantly talk around trying to build the partnerships and hopefully that leads to getting first-innings runs, which will be crucial.
“We fell well short in the last Test match so clearing the minds and looking forward to this match.
“I’ve encouraged the players to view it as a challenge and one which they should embrace and excite them because if they do well and score runs against this Indian attack in their own country, they know they’ve earned their runs.”
India have hosted only one day-night Test in their history and their seamers took 19 of the 20 wickets to fall – the other was a run out – as they defeated Bangladesh in November 2019 at Kolkata.
There is an inkling that the conditions in the penultimate match of this series might tilt the balance a little in England’s favour after they struggled to deal with the spin-friendly surface at the Chepauk Stadium.
Ben Stokes has looked particularly ill-at-ease against Ravichandran Ashwin, who has taken the all-rounder’s wicket in his last three innings and dismissed him on 10 occasions in total – four times more than any other bowler.
Thorpe, though, backed Stokes to find an answer.
“I think Ben has at times different styles of playing, he can build into an innings as well,” batting coach Thorpe said.
“I think Ben also has that ability to put a bowler on the back foot and that’s something we shouldn’t forget.
“If the pitch spins, (Ashwin) is dangerous for left and right-handers. He is a fine bowler in those conditions.
“The challenge of facing the pink ball, the changing conditions – we’ll have to adapt well. It’s a slight unknown quantity but often the pink ball does a little more in the evening than it does in the afternoon for the seamers.”
Jofra Archer declared himself fit to play this week after having a cortisone injection on an elbow injury that led to him missing the second Test.
The paceman said: “I’m feeling fine, no complaints. I just tried to utilise the best of the two-week window. I could have played the second Test if needed, but I was going to be rested anyway.
“It’s always nice to be in competition for a spot – if I don’t get it that’s fine. I would much rather win the Test series than try to play lots of games.
“This next Test is important. Winning this next one puts us in the drivers’ seat and we’ll control the last one if we win this one.”