First came the rain and bad light that turned the second Test into an embarrassing farce.
Now, for its next trick, the Southampton weather is set to blow gale force winds at the Ageas Bowl on Friday to try to knock the last instalment of this extraordinary Test summer off course.
England’s mission is to make sure, for them at least, it is not grim down south and they end this unprecedented run of six back to back Tests behind closed doors with the sort of flourish against Pakistan that would sustain them throughout an uncertain winter.
Rain ruined England’s second Test against Pakistan in Southampton, which ended in a draw
The weather is now set to blow gale force winds at the Ageas Bowl on Friday for the third Test
Joe Root certainly made all the right noises yesterday as he contemplated trying to dodge the worst of the elements over the next five days and record his 24th win as captain, a victory that would take him level with Sir Alastair Cook and Sir Andrew Strauss.
To do that he will unleash the seam bowling might of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad followed up by the speed of Jofra Archer and the still under-rated reliability of Chris Woakes. And just for good measure he might just throw Mark Wood in too.
England started this summer determined to plan for the future while rotating their seam bowling riches but they will end it with the big two of Anderson and Broad still taking the new ball in the final Test and the big guns of Archer and Wood forced to accept supporting roles.
Joe Root could record his 24th win as captain – the same as Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss
Wood, indeed, has not played since stand-in captain Ben Stokes threw both him and Archer into the deep end at the very start of this painstakingly well organised and strict bio-secure cricketing bubble that has safeguarded the financial future of the ECB.
And the man who was such a force in South Africa last winter could miss out again if Root keeps faith with a spinner he has barely used in Dom Bess just in case the doom laden local forecast for the first, fourth and fifth days proves inaccurate.
‘Everything is on the table,’ said Root after his first real look yesterday at the fresh Ageas Bowl pitch that has been under cover pretty much ever since the second Test petered out into an angst-ridden draw with fewer than 135 overs bowled.
James Anderson (left) and Stuart Broad (right) are set to be the big bowlers for England
‘All the options are there for us whichever way we think will suit this pitch best in the morning. We want to go in with the best attack to take 20 wickets on that surface.’
It does seem as though the form – and Broad really has been exceptional since England dared to leave him out of the first Test – and sheer force of personality of their record-breaking opening bowlers has made Root shelve any thoughts of Ashes planning.
But he insisted yesterday he has still learned plenty about his bowling options in a summer which will go down as one of steady progress under the captain and new coach Chris Silverwood as long as they avoid defeat here and clinch another series triumph.
‘When you have so many options and so many people are putting their hands up it’s a great place for us to be in,’ said Root. ‘Guys have come in and produced good performances. No-one has let themselves down.
A win over Pakistan would show steady progress under Root (right) and Chris Silverwood (left)
‘We’ve got a great group of bowlers now that we feel cover a number of different surfaces and a number of different challenges wherever we go in the world.
‘Whoever gets the chance tomorrow will have to take it because with the competition we have for places people have to keep proving their worth.’
Root welcomed the rare piece of flexibility from administrators in taking the first step towards avoiding a repeat of the self-defeating stoppages of the second Test and announcing earlier start times should bad weather, as expected, rear its ugly head again.
‘It’s a sensible idea,’ said the England captain. ‘I did feel for the umpires last week because they did everything they could within the letter of the law to keep us out there whenever possible. At least this will enable us to play a little more cricket.’
So what should the next steps be to make sure this really is a tipping pojnt for the Test game and bad light is banished?
’We should trial as many ideas as possible as long as they don’t alter the fundamentals of Test cricket,’ said Root.
England and Pakistan will be keen to avoid the rain delays that damaged the second Test
‘If you improve the minimum standards of the floodlights that would be a major factor in helping things. And maybe a slightly lighter red ball. I’m sure there will be people now looking at the best ways possible to improve the situation.’
Drawing level with Cook and Strauss and moving just three wins behind Michael Vaughan as England captain would be a significant achievement for Root, not least because three years into the job there are still times when he seems to have much to learn.
‘It would be a great way to finish but it’s not about me as captain,’ he insisted. ‘To be successful in charge you need fantastic players and we’ve got loads of talent in this group. We’re on an upward curve now as a side and long may that continue.
Root (middle) wants to show a proper attitude and work ethic in the third Test
‘But we’re very realistic about where we are. There are things we need to keep developing and learning and getting better at. We’re all keen to make those improvements.
‘We are capable of so much more but if we continue with the right attitude and work ethic that we’ve had, especially over the last year or so, then I believe the sky’s the limit.’
A first series victory against Pakistan, home or away, for 10 years would be a significant feather in Root’s cap. Just as long as the Southampton wind doesn’t blow England’s house down.