Edgbaston provides chance for Root and England to change the mood

minglish cricket has not exactly seen eye to eye with the government this week but they join forces at Edgbaston for a pilot scheme in which 17,000 spectators will be in attendance for each day of the second Test between England and New Zealand that starts on Thursday. With this comes a pledge from Joe Root that his side will look to put on a show.

Root’s players have faced heavy questioning over the Ollie Robinson affair during the build up – as ever they face the media when crisis descends, while the senior administrators hide behind statements – but beyond this thorny subject there have been queries about the lack of intent shown at Lord’s.

A target of 273 en 75 overs on a sun-drenched final day was eschewed in favour of caution and after time to consider accusations of misreading the mood, not least with supporters finally back in the stands and no World Test Championship points at stake, Root remains unrepentant.

Eso dicho, despite insisting conditions were too tough and the hunt for an overall series win was a factor, Root maintains his side want to be viewed as a positive one. Given the events of the past week, they could do worse than put these words into practice when the two sides play out their finale in leafy south Birmingham.

“We’re all very aware we’re in the entertainment business,” said Root, who is yet to lose a series at home as captain. “We all want to be part of those games, those special games that provide that entertainment. The ones that stick in my mind are the World Cup final, Headingley, Cape Town – the ones that go to the wire, they’re the ones you remember as a player and want to have big contributions in.

“If the opportunities arise we’ll look to be aggressive. I don’t want us to be considered a negative team who play a boring brand of cricket. We have exciting players who are capable of some wonderful passages of play. Hopefully that will come to light this week.”

Kane Williamson’s calculated declaration – and a decision to delay handshakes come the end – gave his side the moral high ground in the eyes of many. De todas formas, recent visits by New Zealand have certainly provided an education, be it the attacking zeal imported in 2015 or their gracious handling of defeat after that heart-stopping World Cup final four years later.

The Black Caps will sadly be missing their captain as they look for a first series win in England since 1999. A longstanding elbow issue has flared up and prompted caution ahead of the World Test Championship final against India next week, with the opener Tom Latham asked to deputise once more.

Root described Williamson as a “big gun” but, despite the absence of the world’s No 1 batsman, the England captain pointed to Devon Conway’s sparkling double century on debut last week as reason to be wary of New Zealand’s bench strength. [object Window], who signed off from an early season stint at Durham with two centuries, comes in at No 3, while the tourists bring in Trent Boult – possibly affording Tim Southee a break before the big one – and could replace the injured Mitchell Santner with a more full-time spinner in Ajaz Patel.

With Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler absent, England’s depth is supposedly being explored already in order to expose inexperienced players to pressure situations ahead of the Ashes later this year. And yet the caution of last week seemed to come in part down to a lack of faith in the newcomers Dan Lawrence and James Bracey being able to batten down the hatches had a more proactive approach backfired.

How they would have fared is clearly an unknown but the upshot is both head into the second Test off the back of first-innings ducks. Zak Crawley had a second attempt but could only follow his blob with a mere two runs and another ill-judged shot; England’s No 3 is struggling to recreate the poise and class witnessed during his 267 against Pakistan last summer, even if you sense it will return.

Asked if this now meant a shootout for places before the India series in August, when Stokes and Buttler should be back, Root replied: “I see it as an opportunity to go out and score Test runs for their country and I hope they view it like that.”

The greater headache comes lower down. Root praised Robinson’s ability to keep the old ball moving sideways at Lord’s but the well-crafted 42 he made at No 8, one that along with 132 from Rory Burns spared collective blushes in England’s first innings, means his absence leaves a potentially long tail.

Warwickshire’s Olly Stone seems likely to replace the rested Mark Wood as the pace option, while Jimmy Anderson is poised to claim a record 162nd cap. But while Stone’s steadfast 43 in a successful chase of 333 against Stuart Broad and Nottinghamshire earlier this season shows he can wield the willow – and he also owns a company that produces it for bat-makers – a first-class average of 15 offers few guarantees.

How much this influences a final call between the spin of Jack Leach or the more all-round cricketer in the seamer Craig Overton remains to be seen. The forecast is for hot weather and this was the old stomping ground of the spin coach, Jeetan Patel. But then England have also noted how Essex’s Simon Harmer, the best in the country, went wicketless when Warwickshire chased down 275 at home earlier this season.

sin embargo, Overton’s return during such a week as this would also elicit a reaction given an allegation of using racist language in 2015, even if the 27-year-old maintains his innocence. It may be why Root was reluctant to commit 24 hours out, admitting his team could well be “lopsided” as they look to alter perceptions.

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