George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
Ben Stokes has branded criticism of England's performance in the Trent Bridge Test as "harsh" and "unfair".
England were defeated by 340 runs in the second Investec Test leading some well-known former players to dismiss their performance as "appalling" (Michael Vaughan), "rubbish" (Nasser Hussain) and "tripe" (Geoff Boycott). And while Stokes admitted that England had failed to adapt to either the match conditions or pitch in Nottingham, he took exception to any suggestion that the side lacked commitment.
"The whole fight and desire [question] and everything like that that's been thrown at us I think is very, very unfair," Stokes told ESPNcricinfo. "It's almost like people are saying that we don't have the desire or the fight to play for England but everyone who takes part in the game - not just the 11 but everyone in the squad, coaches - the desire, the commitment, the fight to represent your country and do well is always there. So I think that kind of criticism is harsh, yes."
Whether anyone in the media did question England's "desire", "commitment" or "fight" is debatable. While Vaughan said England's batting hinted at "a lack of respect" for the values or Test cricket, the context of his comments suggested he was referring to a lack of sophistication rather than effort.
Indeed, the one man who did bring up any lack of fight was England's assistant coach, Paul Farbrace. Almost immediately after Stokes had given his interview, Farbrace told reporters that "everyone" in the dressing room accepted the team "lacked some fight" at Trent Bridge.
"Everyone put their hands up after the Trent Bridge performance and said it lacked some fight, certainly in the second innings, and there were some disappointing dismissals in both innings," Farbrace said.
While it would be stretching a point to suggest such conflicting comments hint at any unrest within the England camp - there is no indication of that at all - it is possible they reveal a lack of direction coming from the dressing room and team management.
Certainly both Stokes and Farbrace accepted England's batting had been below par in Nottingham. Stokes talked of a failure to "assess" the situation, while Farbrace suggested some dismissals were "reckless" and others were "disappointing defensive dismissals".
"The big thing is just for us is to be able to adapt quicker," Stokes said. "We didn't adapt whatsoever in that second innings at Trent Bridge to what we needed to do, which was just to bat. But unfortunately it didn't happen. The only way we can give ourselves the best chance is just assessing the situations better."
Farbrace agreed: "There is a fine line between being positive and being reckless. We had some reckless dismissals, and we also had some disappointing defensive dismissals in the last game.
"Not all of them were people playing big shots and getting caught on the rope; we had people caught around the crease, and being bowled, through perhaps being not quite as positive with their footwork and clinical as they could have been in defence. It unfortunately wasn't a one-off - it's happened a few times before."
It appears the balance of England's side will be unchanged at The Oval. While Tom Westley - who had a nervous first session in which he was bowled by a net bowler - will replace the injured Gary Ballance at No. 3, it seems the flat pitch expected for the ground's 100th Test renders it unlikely that England will drop either of their spinners. "We know what [our best team] is. We play two spinners who are attacking bowlers," Stokes said.
"We have the option to play two spinners or bring another batsman in," Farbrace added. "But I think the one thing our selectors have done well in the last few years is be very consistent. Players have sometimes been given one game more rather than one game too few and I think that's the way we should be.
"When you pick people, you want them to know they're going to get a run of games. We're trying to build confidence in the team. Yes, we know it was not a great performance at Trent Bridge by any means, but chopping and changing doesn't tend to solve anything."
The only question, then, will focus on the fitness of Mark Wood. He has never previously played three successive Tests in the same series and it emerged at the end of the Trent Bridge Test that he had a heel injury - though he bowled with impressive pace in the Oval nets, knocking Joe Root off his feet. If he is not deemed to be fully fit, Toby Roland-Jones will come into the side in his place.
It was also interesting to note the presence of Ben Foakes and George Garton in the England net session. Garton, an unusually quick left-arm seamer who plays for Sussex, has represented the Lions recently and is clearly seen as an outside option for the Ashes in Australia - he is only 20 and has played just seven first-class matches - while Foakes, the Surrey keeper, might well be emerging as England's second choice behind the stumps.
Matt Walker and Anthony McGrath, coaches at Kent and Essex respectively, were also at the training session as part of England's attempts to involve more county coaches within the set-up.
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