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Wounded England to come roaring back, pledges Root


All set: England captain Joe Root catches in a fielding drill during a nets session at Lord’s Cricket Ground
All set: England captain Joe Root catches in a fielding drill during a nets session at Lord’s Cricket Ground
Tim Paine

By Rory Dollard

England captain Joe Root expects nothing short of a major improvement when his side resume their Ashes battle with Australia at Lord's.

The hosts were thrashed by 251 runs in the series opener at Edgbaston, outclassed in the second innings after boasting a lead of 90 at halfway.

A repeat performance at the home of cricket would leave their hopes of reclaiming the urn hanging by a thread, but Root predicts his men will muster the right response when the second Test gets under way today.

"Last week will have hurt everyone. Everyone will be absolutely desperate to go and win this week and I expect nothing less," he said.

"We really back ourselves to perform and to come back strong. We've proven that we do that time and time again when we've been defeated, especially at home. And I'm expecting a big response from the boys."

There will be at least two changes to the England side, with Jofra Archer set to replace the injured James Anderson and be joined by at least one of two left-arm options - spinner Jack Leach and swing bowler Sam Curran.

England could conceivably fit both in, giving themselves the widest possible array of options as they bid to crack the Steve Smith code, but only if they back Curran to score more runs than their current No.4 batsman Joe Denly.

Curran received a warm tribute from Root having been somewhat unlucky to be edged out of the reckoning. The 21-year-old all-rounder has won all six of his Tests on home soil and has impressed those in the England set-up with his easy transition to the highest level.

"Sam's a brilliant talent, he's got the ability to change the game with both bat and ball, similar to Ben Stokes," said Root, who does not invoke his vice-captain's talents lightly.

"His record is fantastic. He has had a huge impact in most of the games he's played, and is a very promising talent. I'm sure he will play a huge amount of Test cricket."

Another who falls into that category is Archer, who will make his debut having won as many World Cups as he has played first-class matches in the past 11 months.

The fact the 24-year-old last played a Championship match in September 2018 has not worried the selectors, particularly given Archer's revitalising effect on the one-day bowling attack and his consistent ability to top 90mph.

Archer faced up to the media on Monday and gave a self-assured performance which left Root with a smile on his face.

Asked if he felt ready to unleash the Barbados-born quick, Root said: "Yes, especially having heard his press conference.

"He's certainly very confident and that's great to see in a young guy. It's as he should be off the back of a brilliant World Cup.

"We're very excited to see him at the start of a journey. Things don't seem to faze him, so I think if anything it'll motivate him. When he gets his chance, he'll be desperate to prove to everyone how good he says he is."

England were victorious on their previous trip to Lord's last month but did endure a scare before seeing off Ireland in a game dominated by bowlers. Root was critical of the pitch on that occasion and had a simple response when asked what he expected this time.

"I'm expecting it to be better," he said. "I'm sure they've worked extremely hard to prepare a brilliant wicket this time. Hopefully there's a bit there for everyone."

Meanwhile, Tim Paine believes Australia have seen Archer at his fastest but admitted there will be occasions when the paceman will prove problematic.

Archer is not an unknown quantity for Australia, with Paine pointing out most of his side's batsmen have either faced him in the World Cup or in a domestic Twenty20 franchise competition.

Paine said: "A lot of our guys have seen Jofra or faced him, which is a plus. It's been in white-ball cricket but we've actually faced him in Australia where conditions suit fast bowling.

"We've seen him at his fastest, they know what to expect, they know how skilful he is and how good he is.

"Like most bowlers that play Test cricket there will be times where he's going to be a real threat, and we're going to have to weather that."

Regarding the omission of James Pattinson, Paine revealed he was available but that Australia were taking a broader view with the paceman, whose workload will be managed.

Paine added: "We've spoken to our group of bowlers about making sure that we have that core group going forward for the next two or three years, they're all still quite young in age.

"In James' case in particular he's come back off a really long lay-off. What we've done in the past is we've got him back, we know how good he is so we keep using him and keep bowling him and eventually he's broken again.

"We're really lucky that we've got two bowlers on the sidelines that are world-class and we want to make sure James is cherry-ripe every time he plays."

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