ngland captain Joe Root has moved top of the ICC’s Test batting rankings for the first time in six years, declaring that he hopes his best is yet to come, before announcing Moeen Ali as his vice-captain for tomorrow’s Fourth Test against India.
Root is in the midst of an extraordinary run glut that has seen him score six centuries this year, including three in three matches in this series, which sits beautifully poised at 1-1 with two to play.
“It’s a nice thing to hear but my main focus is still to try to keep scoring runs and get us across the line in this series,” he said.
When asked if he was in the form of his life, Root said: “Hopefully not. Hopefully the form of my life is still to come. But I certainly feel very good at the minute and have to stay focused and diligent in my preparation in the work I do around the games to give myself the best chance to bang out big scores.”
In the absence of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler (who is missing this game for the birth his second child), Moeen beat Surrey skipper Rory Burns to the role of vice-captain. Root described Moeen as “a natural leader, someone the team gravitate towards”.
Burns has plenty on his plate trying to crack opening the batting at Test level, while Moeen is a famously relaxed character. He captained England’s T20 side for the first time last year and has led Worcestershire to the Vitality Blast title and Birmingham Phoenix to the Hundred final.
England have a pair of selection decisions to make. With Buttler absent, Jonny Bairstow takes the gloves and drops down to No6, with Ollie Pope and Dan Lawrence are come in at No5. On his home ground, where he averages 101 in first-class cricket, Moeen is the favourite, but Lawrence joined the squad to train today having played the first two days of Essex’s Championship match against Glamorgan (scoring 34) and is in the mix.
In the bowling attack, Jimmy Anderson appears unlikely to be rested (this is the second of three Tests in three weeks), but Sam Curran looks set to be dropped. The fit-again Chris Woakes is the favourite to replace him for his first Test in more than a year, but Mark Wood is in contention too having also recovered from injury.
India seem certain to bring R.Ashwin into their XI, probably for Ishant Sharma. They added tall seamer Prasidh Krishna to their squad this morning.