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November 26, 2013
Joe Root is the likeliest solution to England's issue of who will bat No. 3 in the second Test in Adelaide after Jonathan Trott's return to England with a stress-related illness.
One of the less remarked upon aspects of the first Test in Brisbane was Root's confident display amid the wreckage of England's second innings as he batted confidently for around two hours and, just as markedly, seemed to enjoy the contest.
England's temptation to retain Root at No. 6, in the recognition that he has looked most settled down the order during his fledgling Test career, is offset by their conviction that they do not want to promote Ian Bell from his spot at No. 5 where he has produced some of the most gifted innings of his Test career.
With Kevin Pietersen also loath to bat at No. 3 and two reserve batsmen in Gary Ballance and Jonny Bairstow who would only come into consideration down the order, it is Root who could be asked to prove his adaptability once more in what is fast becoming a trip around England's batting order. It is fortunate that he expresses his relaxed attitude to batting everywhere because that is likely to be his fate.
Flower responded to a question about Bell's settled form at No. 5 by saying: "Moving him around the order might not be ideal. But then the Trott incident, we could not foresee that. Root played superbly towards the end of that first Test. He showed what a good, young, mature man he is and a very fine player, so he would be capable of doing the job. But we haven't made that decision yet. There are a number of candidates."
Former England captains have mixed views: Michael Atherton has called for Root to fill the role; Nasser Hussain for Bell.
England arrived in Alice Springs on Tuesday for a two-day fixture against a Cricket Australia Chairman's XI at Traegar Park. As they lost one rock - the description often used for Trott by the team director Andy Flower - they plan to visit another, no trip to the Northern Territory's interior being complete without a visit to Uluru/Ayers Rock. Well, some will visit anyway: they have gathered a quorum, comprising some players and management staff.
Tim Bresnan has not made the trip. He is poised to play for the England Performance Programme team in a three-day match against Queensland 2nd XI in Brisbane, beginning on Wednesday, in an effort to prove his recovery from a stress fracture in his back which has sidelined him since the fourth Test win against Australia in Chester-le-Street in August when England won the Ashes.
It would be a gamble to pitch Bresnan into the Ashes series after so little cricket, but there is no easy way to solve that, and if England decide to replace Chris Tremlett, who was relatively economical at the Gabba but well down on pace, Bresnan could be in the mix with Steve Finn and Boyd Rankin, although the fact that England's bowling coach, David Saker, has not stayed behind in Brisbane to watch him might be a clue about his chances. News of seven wickets might have to arrive via the bush telegraph.
With England 1-0 down in the series - and Adelaide traditionally representing one of England's better opportunities (albeit, a drop-in pitch makes its character harder to judge) - there have also been a few calls already for Ben Stokes to bat at No. 6 in Adelaide, so giving England an extra bowler. After the batting trauma in Brisbane, it would be an out-of-character gamble for England to take.
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