England v Pakistan: We have to stand up and be counted, says captain Joe Root

CAPTAIN Joe Root has launched an impassioned defence of under-fire head coach Trevor Bayliss as England seek to square their two-match series against Pakistan at Emerald Headingley.

England captain Joe Root makes a point to head coach Trevor Bayliss as they prepared for todays start of the second Test against Pakistan at Headingley (Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire).
England captain Joe Root makes a point to head coach Trevor Bayliss as they prepared for todays start of the second Test against Pakistan at Headingley (Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire).

England have lost 20 of their 41 Tests, including seven of the last 10, since Bayliss took charge before the 2015 Ashes.

Their most recent humiliation was a nine-wicket pummelling against Pakistan at Lord’s.

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Bayliss admits that he is under pressure going into the game, but Root made clear: “I don’t see why there’s a need for a change.

“Ultimately, we have to play better. We’ve been below-par this last six months and the easy thing is the knee-jerk reaction – change everything completely.

“I love working with Trevor. I think he does some really great things for this team. As Jimmy (Anderson) has said, he can’t do it for us on the field.

“We have the right discussions. We talk the right things off the field. But it’s about going out and performing and doing those things.

“This week is our chance to do just that. I want the guys to stand up and be counted this week and show how important it is to play for England. It’s all about showing that hunger and desire.”

Root spoke a good game as he faced the cameras and questions at Headingley yesterday.

The Yorkshireman was hardly likely to have championed Bayliss’s removal, of course, while the Australian is thought unlikely to be sacked should England lose the series – not least because there is a leadership vacuum at the top of the England and Wales Cricket Board, with director of cricket Andrew Strauss on compassionate leave.

Andy Flower, the former coach who has stepped in to cover for Strauss, is unlikely to take such a major decision, while Bayliss has transformed the one-day team leading into next year’s World Cup.

Strauss could have chosen to split the coaching roles following a wretched Test winter, with Bayliss having announced that he is leaving at the end of next season in any case, but the Test team is not in a good place leading into Headingley.

Although the feeling persists that England are a fair-to-middling side, liable to the ups and downs typical of the ilk, Root insisted: “We’ve got some very talented players across all departments.

“You look at the players we’ve got – Ben Stokes can win a game with bat or ball. Look at the way Dawid (Malan) played in Perth. There’s plenty of evidence across the board that we’ve got the players. It’s just about doing it consistently well over a period of time.

“I’ve got every confidence in the group. We’ve got everything we need to be a really good team. It’s just going out and proving it to ourselves more than anything and then doing it consistently. If we do that I think we’ll fly and we’ll go places quite quickly.”

At the same time Root accepts there is an element of work-in-progress. He does not envisage any quick solutions.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” he stressed. “We’ve got to be really realistic about where we’re currently at and not look too far into certain things – not just brush things under the carpet, but just be really real as a team.

“We’ve made some changes in how we approach things in practice. We’ve got a real clear idea of how we’re going to get better. It’s going to take a little bit of time for it to kick in and work. We’ve got to commit to that and give it chance to work. It’s ultimately about performing under pressure.”

Root is also demanding more from himself, having made only one Test hundred in nearly 11 months despite a plethora of fifties.

“I feel my game’s in a good place,” he said. “I’ve been consistent for a while, just not kicked on. The same challenges are there for me too. Mentally, I feel that I’m really up for that challenge, I’m up for that fight. I’m really looking forward to this week. It’s just about going out and doing it.”

Whether he will have Ben Stokes at his side remains to be seen. Stokes was set for a fitness test this morning after a scan on a left hamstring injury sustained during practice on Wednesday.

Although Stokes batted in the nets yesterday, he did not bowl and was limited to shuttle runs with the team physio. Surrey all-rounder Sam Curran is on standby.

Commenting on Stokes’s situation, Root said: “After a fitness test we’ll have a clear idea of what we can do. Is Ben in a position to play as a batter? Is that something we want to do?

“We will make that decision on his fitness when we get a good understanding of where he’s at. There’s so many different ways that we could go. Sam is an exciting player who adds to our bowling attack and gives us a point of difference if we want to go that way.”

Right ingredients lacking for recipe for success: Page 24