Joe Root has called on England to take advantage of Steve Smith’s concussion-enforced absence from the Headingley Test, while crossing his fingers Jason Roy does not miss out for the same reason.
Australia’s hopes of improving their position in the series, 1-0 up after a big win at Edgbaston and last week’s Lord’s draw, took a hit with the news that their best player has not been cleared for action for day one.
Root knows how it feels to be denied a star performer, having lost record wicket-taker James Anderson to a calf injury on the first morning of the first Test, and realises the opportunity Jofra Archer’s 92mph bouncer has created.
“They will be huge shoes to fill,” said the Yorkshireman.
“It’s very unfortunate on their part but we had the challenge of Jimmy going down four overs into a Test match and had to manage that without a replacement.
“You get these swings within a big series like this every now and again and when you get your opportunity you’ve got to jump on it.
You get these swings within a big series like this every now and again and when you get your opportunity you’ve got to jump on it.England captain, Joe Root
“There was a lot of concern in our dressing room for his health but it’s great to see he’s up and about and is fine.”
England had an unexpected worry of their own when Roy was struck in the nets on Tuesday, ducking into a throw-down from Marcus Trescothick, who has been working with the team as a batting consultant.
Roy was struck on the shock-absorbing stem guard – an optional add-on to the helmet which Smith does not wear – and was cleared to continue his session.
The right-hander passed another concussion test and batted on the eve of the game but England team protocols require him to be assessed again this morning before being passed fit.
As such England have called for his Surrey team-mate Ollie Pope, fresh from a knock of 221 not out against Hampshire, to join the squad on standby.
“Jason’s been monitored quite closely, as you’d expect. But as it stands I fully expect him to be fit and ready to go,” Root said.
“Obviously there is a huge amount of attention around concussion at the minute. He has cleared all of the tests absolutely fine until now but there is a period where you have got to be extra cautious.”
Only a small percentage of concussions present 48 hours or more after impact but, given the recent spate of blows to the head, the potential for brain injuries have been thrust into the spotlight and forced hard-bitten competitors to take the on-field battle in perspective.
“Of course this is a huge series and it means so much to all our players, but it doesn’t mean that much in terms of someone getting seriously hurt and potentially ruining the rest of their life,” Root said.
“It is really important we look after the players. We have team doctors and medics and we have to respect their decision, even if it doesn’t sit well with you as a player and as captain, the safety of the player has to come first.”
Root also offered a different perspective when asked for his own experiences of hostile bowling.
“The thing that hurts the most is your ego,” Root said.
“You’re stood out there in front of 35,000 people and someone has mugged you off a bit. That’s how it feels when I’ve been hit. You pride yourself on being able to either get out of the way or take it on.”
There is sure to be an even greater emphasis on Archer’s performance over the next five days given his eye-catching debut, but Root has seen nothing to doubt his readiness.
“He’s dealing with it pretty well, I think. He sets up his Fortnite (video game) at the hotel and plays.
“He’s just a very relaxed character, unfazed by anything.
“He’s one of those guys who seems to be born for these occasions.”