Stokes injury worry prompts England to bring in Moeen Ali
By Chetan Narula
Southampton, Aug 29 (PTI) England captain Joe Root today said comeback-man Ben Stokes is not fully fit to carry out his complete bowling responsibilities, which has prompted the side to bring in Moeen Ali for the fourth Test against India starting here tomorrow.
"There's two changes to the team from last week. Sam Curran comes in for Chris Woakes - he's not fit to play this time around - and with Ben not being 100 per cent in terms of the amount he can bowl and the balance of the side, Moeen comes in for Ollie Pope," Root said in the pre-match press conference.
Stokes suffered a knee injury during the third Test, his first since being acquitted of affray charges after a brawl outside a pub.
"The likes of Moeen going back to county cricket making a double hundred and take six-for, Sam went back and played for Surrey and now has another opportunity. At all times, you're not far away from playing," he added.
England lead the five-match series 2-1 but have been pulled back by the loss in the third Test.
Root expressed confidence that his side will bounce back from the defeat suffered in Nottingham.
"We under-performed last week, that's the bottom line. One of our big strengths as a squad is our strength of character and, at home in particular, we're very good at bouncing back from difficult weeks," he said.
"We've done it time and time again before. And I don't expect anything less form the group this time as well," he added.
Root also confirmed that Jonny Bairstow will play as a specialist batsman and bat at number four, with Jos Buttler keeping wickets probably till the end of this series.
"With a slight fracture it's the safest thing to do is for Jonny to play just as a batter. He is fit to bat and will bat at four this week. He's fully aware that it's a lot to ask him to keep with a broken finger. Well, a slight crack in it.
"It was a medical call. He didn't seem fit to be able to keep in a Test for five days. And that was the call that was made. He will be disappointed but ultimately we've got to do the best thing for this team to win this game."
The green-top wicket at Southampton also suits England just fine, with James Anderson only seven wickets away from overtaking Australia's Glenn McGrath to become the most successful Test pacer. Root hoped Anderson would achieve the feat in this Test.
"One thing he gives me is great control. He is obviously a very great attacking threat when it is seaming and swinging but you always feel that it is going to create pressure for you and he is always going to ask difficult questions of batters for long periods of time," he said.
"He is brilliant to have around and I think he is getting better and better to be honest. I think he could play for a good while yet which is really exciting if he can stay on the park and he looks desperate to do so," said Root.
The skipper also hoped that Alastair Cook would hit form like he did for England back in 2014, when he scored 95 runs, albeit benefitting from a dropped catch. Root hoped that the batting line-up would put up an improved performance in this Test.
"I remember being sat in the dressing room (in 2014) almost a little bit emotional for him. That was the feeling within the group, how much he means to the squad. We are fully aware of what he's capable of doing.
"It was nice to have that support heard from outside the four walls of the changing room. Think he got 95 caught down the leg side (in 2014).
"It's been frustrating, but this is another opportunity to put it right. There are a lot of very hungry guys to do that. Having seen Jos go and score a Test century, and how much that means to him, hopefully that drives other guys on too," Root signed off