Sri Lanka in England 2016 May 6, 2016

Root expected to stay at No. 4

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Joe Root is set to stay at No. 4 in England's Test line-up for the series against Sri Lanka, but Alastair Cook admitted there were some "tough decisions" to be made about other batting positions.

Three of England's top five slots are under scrutiny going into the international season - which begins with the first Test at Headingley on May 19 - and the selectors will meet next week after one more round of Championship matches.

Trevor Bayliss, the England coach, returns from Australia to take in the next round of four-day games while Cook, who does not have an official vote on selection, will attend the meeting as England shape their squad for a resumption of Test action following their series win in South Africa.

One enforced change will have to be made following the retirement of James Taylor which opens up a place at No. 5, but there will also be debate - again - about Cook's opening partner and who bats at No. 3.

It could be that both Alex Hales and Nick Compton - who filled those positions in South Africa - will be given another chance; the early suggestions are that Hales is the more secure of the two even though Compton had better numbers in the South Africa series.

Root, the No.2-ranked Test batsman, has made it clear that he would prefer to remain at No. 4 - where he is averaging 54.62 - and while Cook confirmed that discussions had been about a move to three, the status quo is likely to be maintained.

"Joe has made it perfectly clear where he wants to bat," Cook said. "He's been outstanding for us and probably at this time he'll stick at four. I know Trevor has spoken about him going to three but maybe that will see that a bit later on. But when you're scoring like him and averaging 60 from No. 4, I think it's probably quite good to stick there."

Gary Ballance, who was the reserve batsman in South Africa, Ian Bell and James Vince appear to be jostling for a position in the side although there could yet be room for two of them if the selectors decide to make a change at No. 3 as well. Ballance has been the least convincing of that trio in the early weeks of the season, while both Bell - who was dropped for the South Africa tour - and Vince, uncapped at Test level, have centuries to their name.

"The selectors have tough decisions to make," Cook said at a Chance to Shine event. "The guys went to South Africa and won and that gives the guys a lot of credit in the bank, but then again we did not score the runs at the top order we would have liked. Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Ben Stokes scored a lot of our runs so the selectors have got big decisions to make.

"'It's not as clear as I hoped it would be by this stage. But that's probably because we could go two or three ways. It will be an interesting meeting. There might be some tough calls to make or it might be about giving the guys who went to South Africa another chance. I don't know which way it is going to go."

Whatever decisions are made, though, Cook conceded England need a more consistent return from the top order as they aim to secure further Test success. "For this side to step forward, challenge India away, Australia away, get back up to No. 1 ranking, we need to score runs in the top three, more than we have done in the last couple of years. It's an opportunity, whether it's Alex, or someone else, to grab hold of."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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