Root rues England's top-order shortcomings

Joe Root has admitted the idea of his moving back into England's top three was discussed ahead of naming a squad for the Investec Test series against West Indies.

Root, the England Test captain, has previously stated he preferred batting at No.4 and suggested his success in that position would be in the best interests of the side.

But with the selectors deciding to drop Keaton Jennings after his struggles at the top of the order, the idea of Root moving to No. 3 - or even opening - was briefly considered. Root has the highest average as opener - 41.70 - of any of Alastair Cook's 11 opening partners since the retirement of Andrew Strauss at the end of the 2012 English season.

In the end, though, the selectors decided to stick with Tom Westley at No. 3 and call up Surrey's Mark Stoneman as Cook's latest opening partner. Both men now have what Root refers to as a "great chance" to secure places in the Ashes squad.

"Moving back into the top-order was discussed," Root told ESPNcricinfo. "But Tom put in a pretty strong performance against South Africa on some pretty spicy wickets. It's great to see guys putting their hands up with performances like that and he deserves an opportunity to cement that spot.

"Batting at the top of the order is very difficult. I did it for the majority of my early career and you don't get the consistency you get in the middle order. You look at the talent of some of the guys who have played and you think they have every chance of being able to do it, but it's just not been the case.

"Neither top order has set the world alight this year. The pitches have been difficult and they have been exposed to high-quality bowling. It is tough.

"But Mark Stoneman has a solid all-round game. He has scored a volume of runs throughout the year and last year. He's worked hard for them on some testing surfaces at Durham and found ways to be consistent. He has a great chance now."

While Root believes he has a "good idea" of the "core" of his Ashes side, he accepts there are still two or three holes to fill before England depart for Australia.

"There's still a good opportunity for guys to come in now and state their claim," Root said. "Is it a concern that there are still some holes ahead of the Ashes? I wouldn't say that. Ideally we want to nail it down soon, but I look at it as a great opportunity for guys to throw their hands up for a big series. It's a great time to make runs and say 'I'm ready for the Ashes.'"

Root also insisted that the door had not been shut on Adil Rashid despite a rival legspinner, Mason Crane, having been named ahead of him in the Test squad. While Crane is just 20 and has only played 25 first-class games, England like the way he took to international cricket in the two T20 matches he played against South Africa and remain concerned that Rashid bowls too many release balls. It remains likely that the main purpose of calling Crane into the squad is to familiarise him with the England environment and take a closer look at how he performs in training, but Root maintains he could play if conditions suit him.

"It's never a 'that's it' moment for Adil," Root said. "It's about going back into Championship cricket and taking a lot of wickets. It can be difficult for some guys to cross between formats. This time we wanted to give Mason an opportunity to see what he can do for the team and see how he fared in Test cricket.

"He could play. The way he started his international career was very pleasing. He's a very talented cricketer and he's got a bright future. This is a good opportunity to have a look at him in the Test environment before a very important winter.

"He's a very confident young man and hopefully he's got a lot to offer England. But it's important we don't put too much pressure on him or expect too much of him at a young age."

While Chris Woakes was included in the Test squad, it seems unlikely he will make the team. Root admitted he "wasn't exactly sure" if Woakes had recovered "100% match fitness" having played just one first-class game since returning to action following a side strain that kept him out of cricket for about two months.

Root expects to speak to Jennings within a few days. Reasoning that he required his "own space to deal with" being dropped in his own way, Root said his message would be pretty simple. "It's pretty obvious he wants go back into county cricket and score a huge amount of runs and put pressure back on that way," he said. "It's important he continues to be the impressive professional he has been in an England squad."

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