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England will land knock-out punches, vows Root

 

In good hands: Joe Root is keeping faith in England's World Cup hopes
In good hands: Joe Root is keeping faith in England's World Cup hopes

By Rory Dollard

Joe Root expects emotions to run high against India on Sunday in a game England will be treating like a World Cup quarter-final.

A heavy defeat by Australia at Lord's was England's third setback of the tournament and leaves their hopes of reaching the knock-out stage precariously balanced.

Winning their last two group games would do the trick, but seeing off both India and New Zealand would require a sharp improvement from a side who have mislaid the spark which saw them begin the competition as World No.1s and the undisputed red-hot favourites.

The pressure is rising sharply around the group - from pundits deconstructing their defeats, to rival nations eager to edge them in the standings and, surely, from within their own dressing room too.

Moreover, when they walk out at Edgbaston this weekend there is every chance the majority of the crowd, gleaned in large part from Birmingham's large British Asian community, will be roaring on their opponents.

"I personally think we have to be very calm about how we approach the next couple of games because the games themselves might get quite emotional, especially with the atmosphere at Edgbaston," said Root.

"I strongly believe we are more than capable of qualifying for the semi-finals - when that happens it doesn't really matter how you get there, that's when the tournament really starts to kick in.

"It is almost like we see these two games as quarter-finals, which in a way should serve us really well.

"You still have to win big games at some stage in the tournament if you are going to go on and win it. Ours have just come a bit sooner than expected.

"It would be silly to sit and mope about that and get all caught up in it - we have two opportunities now to go and qualify. If we embrace the challenge that is in front of us and play anywhere near our potential then we are more than capable of getting in the semis."

Root can at least approach the game feeling fully fit for the challenges ahead, a luxury not all of his team-mates can claim.

Jason Roy's availability is the most clear and present issue, and a final decision could go all the way to the wire.

The explosive opener tore a hamstring against the West Indies and has been sorely missed over the past three games, with his stand-in James Vince emphatically failing to impress.

Roy is said to be making "good progress" by the England and Wales Cricket Board, but he will take part in both practice days before any verdict is reached.

Jofra Archer, England's leading wicket-taker with 16, is still struggling with tightness in his left side and is also a concern. He passed a morning fitness test to face Australia but looked short of his best, and the ECB said he would "continue to be assessed".

The final area of concern is Adil Rashid's right shoulder, a problem he has been managing throughout the tournament.

The leg-spinner attended the opening of a new urban cricket centre at Leyton Cricket Hub yesterday, as part of the governing body's South Asian Action Plan, and allayed concerns.

"It is getting better every day. I'm seeing the physio every other day getting a massage done or a strength session," he said.

"There is no pain bowling because the injections are still in there."

Meanwhile, West Indies batsman Chris Gayle has apparently backtracked on plans to retire from one-day cricket after the World Cup, as well as declaring himself open to a first Test appearance in five years.

Earlier this year the 39-year-old declared he would end his 50-over career after the tournament but, speaking ahead of today's clash against India, the self-proclaimed 'Universe Boss' penned a new script. In the same breath as ruling himself out of August's Twenty20 double-header against India in Florida, he seemed to set his sights on the subsequent ODI series and - most improbably - a 104th Test cap.

Asked what lay ahead, he said: "Maybe a Test match against India and then I'll play, definitely play, the ODIs against India. I won't play the T20s. That's my plan after the World Cup.

"I still have a few games to go, maybe another series to go, who knows? We'll see what happens."

Whether the national selectors see things the same way as Gayle is not known, and there is every chance the man himself is making it up as he goes along.

While he retains the customary hitting power that has brought more than 19,000 international runs, his mobility around the park has been a concern for some time.

The idea of him performing throughout a five-day match for the first time since September 2014 seems fanciful, but with the second Test taking place on his home island of Jamaica, he perhaps views that as a fitting farewell for his two-decade international career.

His appearance in front of the gathered media at Old Trafford yesterday was less about the intricacies of the fixture ahead and more of a reflection on the life and times of one of the sport's most colourful characters.

"In these next three games, I'd love to get a hundred," he said.

"But if it doesn't happen, I can't actually complain or be too hard on myself. I've achieved a lot.

"I'm definitely up there with the greats without a doubt. I enjoy each and every moment playing for the West Indies.

"It's been a lot of ups and downs. But I could not have had a better career as a player representing the West Indies."

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