Jofra Archer may return to the third Check as England think about a seam-heavy assault
Jofra Archer is set to return for Wednesday's third day-night test against India in Ahmedabad as England consider up to five changes to their XI and a potentially seam-heavy attack to take advantage of the pink ball.
Joe Root and Chris Silverwood face the toughest pick of a series that is two to 1: 1. With a 110,000-seat capacity, the new Motera Stadium suggests India wants another dry pitch that spins early, although England's captain and head coach could still be affected by the brisk performance of the SG pink ball on the nets.
"Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson and Jofra Archer have licked their lips, I can tell you that," said Ben Stokes in an interview with TalkSport. “In yesterday's practice session, when the lights were on, the nets became very dangerous. The bowlers had to stop bowling in the nets because we were concerned that some of the batters might be injured.
“The ball bounced off a length and a couple of guys got hit. We had to get the bowlers in the middle to end their spells. "
Archer, who missed the 317-run loss in Chennai last week due to an elbow kink, is available after a cortisone injection and could replace his formidable substitute Olly Stone, while Anderson should be fresh after the 38-year-old rested with this third test in mind.
"Jofra brings something unique," said Root. "He can do things that others can't and that makes him a very exciting prospect. When he's fully fit and 100% able to operate, it would be absolutely great to see him play out there again."
Roots endorsement was justified by the need to balance England's attack for conditions, while the tail is another factor. This seems likely to be settled by a clear choice between the spin from Dom Bess or the stitch from Chris Woakes in 8th place after Moeen Ali returns home for a pre-arranged break.
Chris Woakes is one of the bowling options to choose from in the third Test against India in Ahmedabad. Photo: ECB
At the end of the last test, the English captain said that Moeen had "decided to go home". But he admitted Monday that it was wrong to describe it differently from the other multi-format players that were given downtime during a three-month tour.
Root said, “I made a complete mistake. That was my bad thing, I got it completely wrong. It wasn't really a reflection of what had happened and it left open to interpretation as to what was unfair to Moeen and I apologized to him very quickly. He shouldn't have been put in that position so it's totally my fault. "
India's only previous day-night test at home in 2019 ended with all 20 Bangladeshi gates taken by seafarers. If Woakes is selected, it would be another one-off appearance like Moeen's. Woakes is flying home after the day and is unlikely to appear in next month's ODIs.
No Bess would leave Jack Leach as the only weirdo and Root who has to roll more himself, while Anderson's return could still come at Broad's expense. If so, Broad would be very frustrated missing the chance to roll under lights in unhelpful conditions after last week's wicketless outing.
From the outside, it looks like England's record-breaking couple will team up for the first time on the two tours when the tail is lengthened or when Archer has another week to recover and management over the extra 90 mile pace per hour decides that either Stone or the newly returned Mark Wood is not required.
“The [pink] ball seems very different. It seems harder to stay longer, ”said Root. "I don't know if it's the conditions on this floor, but it seems to float a little more and conventionally it seems to vibrate a little longer." Depending on the finish we're getting, that might play a bit more of a role. "
Then there's the question of the top three: Zak Crawley is fit again after recovering from a sprained wrist that was sustained at the start of the tour, and Jonny Bairstow, confident against the spinning one after his break Ball in 3rd place looked -0 win in Sri Lanka.
Dan Lawrence, who benefited from this pair being absent during the first two Tests, is expected to give way, while a top score of 33 in his last eight innings – and two ducks in this series – means the position of Rory Burns lost in the opener is scrutiny. Dropping both batsmen would likely mean five changes in total.
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Root said, "It's not ideal, but these times are not ideal. If you look at the white ball roster and what Eoin Morgan and Trevor Bayliss have created in that four year period [before the 2019 World Cup], then it's a strength in depth. We try to do that with the test team. "
The third test is set to begin at 9 a.m. UK time each day and is likely to attract the show's largest audience for Channel 4. However, the following five Twenty20s and three ODIs will be showing on Sky Sports after they announced on Monday a one-year exclusive deal for India's home games.