England ring the changes ahead of crucial fourth Test
Joe Root has overseen two more uncompromising calls as England bid to stave off India’s fightback in the Specsavers Test series.
It is barely two weeks since Root told Sam Curran he was being dropped, two Tests after his breakthrough man-of-the-match performance at Edgbaston, to make way for the returning Ben Stokes.
This time, after India’s 203-run win at Trent Bridge made it 2-1 with two to play in the five-Test series, Root had to inform Jonny Bairstow he will not be keeping wicket in Southampton, and Ollie Pope that he is dropped – two Tests into his career – to allow Moeen Ali’s recall.
Joe Root´s side have made another two changes for the fourth Test (Steven Paston/PA)
Bairstow’s hopes of retaining the gloves, despite his broken finger, have come to nought – and while he plays as a specialist batsman in Pope’s number four position, Jos Buttler will be behind the stumps.
Root declined a straight answer to the question of whether Bairstow himself thought his finger had recovered sufficiently to keep wicket.
“It was a medical call,” he said.
“He will be disappointed, but ultimately we’ve got to make sure we do the best thing for this team to win this game – and we believe Jos is the right man to do it this time around.”
In contrast to India, set to name an unchanged team for the first time in 46 Tests, England face two direct changes of personnel and several others of deployment.
They will not risk Chris Woakes’ thigh injury, with Curran back in his place – and as well as all-rounder Moeen’s presence at the expense of Pope, a misfiring slip cordon has a retro look as the captain and Stokes rejoin Alastair Cook.
Bairstow made it clear 24 hours earlier that he was still “desperate” to keep wicket here.
But Root said: “With a slight fracture, it’s the safest thing to do for Jonny to play just as a batter.
“He’s fully aware that it’s a lot to ask him to keep with a broken finger …. well, a slight crack in it.
“He’s obviously frustrated and disappointed – he loves doing the job, (and) he’s done extremely well over the last couple of years.
“But that’s part of international sport – you don’t always get what you want.”
Bairstow’s move up the order comes after Pope’s 54 runs in three attempts so far – but Root explains the 20-year-old’s absence has more to do with the need for Moeen’s off-spin while all-rounder Stokes is still nursing knee trouble.
“The thinking is purely for balance of the side, and to make sure we have plenty of options for bowling, with Ben not potentially being able to bowl his normal workload,” he said.
“It is no reflection on how (Ollie) has gone in the first two games.”
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