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Left out: England’s Joe Denly

Left out: England’s Joe Denly

PA

Left out: England’s Joe Denly

England have dropped batsman Joe Denly for the second Test against the West Indies, which begins today.

Captain Joe Root returns at Emirates Old Trafford following the arrival of his second child, while 34-year-old Denly will not be involved.

An average of 29.53 after 15 Tests, with no centuries, left the Kent batsman vulnerable and a confident 76 from county team-mate Zak Crawley effectively sealed his fate during the four-wicket Ageas Bowl defeat.

Root said: "It's never an easy decision, never easy having to leave someone out.

"With Joe over a period of time he's done a brilliant job for us, he's helped show our identity as a side and how we played moving forward. It's a very difficult decision but we've gone a different way.

"You watch Zak's progression since he's been involved, his game has continued to get stronger. Joe has done a fantastic job for us over a period of time and he'll be as frustrated as anyone he's not been able to covert those opportunities."

England are still carrying an expanded training group of 22 - seamer Saqib Mahmood having moved to the white-ball squad - and have yet to cut it down to a tighter match day squad.

That suggests a fitness doubt of some kind, with fast bowling trio James Anderson, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood the likeliest candidates given their workload and the short turnaround time.

"There are a few things that need clearing up slightly so until we're in a position I don't want to talk too much about it," said a tight-lipped Root.

Root was an avid viewer of last week's action, despite having his new paternal duties and some batting practice to tick off.

And while he was reluctant to critique too much of what he saw, he does believe his team-mates are ready to dial up their performance levels.

"I had to go and hit some balls myself at certain points, but I did watch a lot of it," he said. "I don't want to be too much of an armchair critic, but having a game under the belt going into this one will be a help.

"The rhythm of our innings second time around was better, it looked like we were in the game more."

Belfast Telegraph