Joe Root insists England must beware of “sleep walking” into their inaugural Test against Ireland at Lord’s today. The four-day match serves as the warm-up to the Ashes series that will begin at Edgbaston on August 1 amid a wave of expectation following the recent World Cup triumph.
Root, England’s red ball captain, has demanded his players refocus their minds on the gruelling second half of the summer knowing that victory over Ireland will set the stage for Australia.
“We’ve taken a huge amount of confidence from the World Cup and that counts for a lot. It’s something we must capitalise on going into a huge six Tests,” Root said.
“The message to the squad is to play with a huge amount of pride and passion. That’s definitely what we are looking to do and that’s been the message to the group. It’s a great chance. We don’t want to sleepwalk into this. Any Lord’s Test match at the start is a good chance to set a precedent for the way we want to play for the rest of the summer.
“I don’t want anyone walking into it and not being 100% on it. It’s a great chance to lay a marker down and put a statement out there. The intensity of this week will set the tone for the rest of the summer.
Of course it will be difficult and there are different challenges this summer to previous ones, but it’s a very exciting chance and there’s a huge carrot at the end of it for everyone involved.
England will field two spinners for the four-day Test in Moeen Ali and Jack Leach, but James Anderson has been ruled out by the calf injury sustained on Lancashire duty at the start of the month.
The nation’s leading wicket taker is expected to be available when the Ashes begins at Edgbaston on August 1.
“Jimmy would probably have been able to get through this Test match, but we’re making sure that he’s absolutely right,” said Root.
“The last thing we want is him carrying a niggle into a series. We’re trying to be sensible about it, giving him as much time as possible to be 100% fit. We’re very confident he’ll be fit.”
Warwickshire pace bowler Olly Stone will make his Test debut, as will Jason Roy who will open the batting in the hope his devastating World Cup form can translate into the longer form of the game.
Root has revealed there will be no attempt made to curb the attacking instincts of the limited overs specialist.
“We want Jason to go out and be himself, to express himself and trust his instincts as much as possible,” said Root.
“He’s got very good instincts, he reads the game very well, and he brings something different to our Test batting line-up. He’s a very exciting prospect and a proven performer at international cricket. He’s capable of making big contributions at the top of the order.
“I hope he doesn’t try to play differently. Only in small pockets, but we’ve seen throughout the World Cup that he can soak up pressure and trust his defence. It might be that he has to do that for longer in Test cricket. But there are times when he can put pressure back on to the opposition and he’s one of the best in the world at doing that.”
Jofra Archer, another of England’s World Cup heroes, is due to return from his holiday to Barbados on Wednesday and it is hoped he will overcome a side strain in time to face Australia in Birmingham. However, Root refuses to view the 24-year-old’s participation in the Ashes as a given.
“The World Cup has shown he can perform in international cricket and his record is good for Sussex with the red ball. We will have to wait and see,” he said.
“Of course you want as many options going into the Ashes, but there are certain things you can’t control. Most importantly for someone like Jofra you have to make sure he’s absolutely right and ready to go.
“You are looking at a young guy that has played four years of solid cricket and making sure you get the best out of him for as long as possible.
“And not shortening what is a very exciting career possibly, making sure he is absolutely fit along with someone like Jimmy is absolutely paramount.”