Joe Root calls on England to find inner ‘showman’ as near-capacity crowds return

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Captain hopes that fans can inspire team after criticism for negativity at Lord’s

Joe Root, England’s captain, hopes that the return of a near-capacity crowd for the second Test at Edgbaston can inspire his players to find their inner “showman”, and scotch suggestions that they are a negative team, in the wake of their final-day go-slow in the opening match at Lord’s.

Root’s team has been embroiled in controversy since the emergence of historic offensive tweets from a number of squad members, most notably Ollie Robinson, who has been suspended by the ECB pending an investigation. And in the eyes of some of their critics, they missed an opportunity to get their fans back onside in the Lord’s Test, as they declined to take on a 273-run fourth-innings chase, and chose instead to block out for the draw.

But Root, who confirmed that the team would once again stand for a “moment of unity” before the start of the second Test, hopes that the return of 17,000 fans a day at Edgbaston may provide an opportunity for a change of narrative – even in the absence of their most proven crowd-pleaser Ben Stokes, who has been at the heart of most of England’s most thrilling victories in recent times.

“We’re all very aware we’re in the entertainment business,” Root said. “We all want to be part of those games, those special games that provide that entertainment. They’re the ones that you remember.

“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. Of course if there are chances to go and win Test matches, we want to go and take them, if we feel like that’s a realistic possibility.”

However, with an unproven batting line-up in this series – one that had made four ducks in the first innings at Lord’s – Root still believes that discretion was the better part of valour in the first Test, after Kane Williamson’s lunchtime declaration had left England needing 273 in a minimum of 75 overs. Dom Sibley led the rearguard with an unbeaten 60, spanning more than five hours, as England closed on 170 for 3.

Dom Sibley dug in for the draw on a dour final day at Lord’s  AFP/Getty Images

“I’ve had some time to think about that,” Root said. “I look at the situation we found ourselves in and I still feel we made the right decision. We’ve turned up here with an opportunity to win the series, albeit it is not part of the Test championship, but it is a Test match and that means a hell of a lot to the players and the group.

“We’re very keen to put in five days of strong cricket this week and win the series. If the opportunities arise, we’ll definitely look to be aggressive. I don’t want us to be considered a negative team who play a boring brand of cricket. We have some very exciting players who are capable of some wonderful passages of cricket and hopefully that will come to light this week.”

Edgbaston has traditionally been a favoured venue for England players, with the crowd’s close proximity to the playing surface, and the habitually rowdy support from the Hollies Stand in particular. Australia’s victory in the Ashes opener in 2019 was only the second by a visiting side in the last 20 years, and Root said he was thrilled at the prospect of feeling that support again.

“It will be great to have [that many] people in, enjoying the sport again in pretty much a full house,” he said. “We know Edgbaston in particular provides a wonderful atmosphere, you feel like there’s 12 players on the pitch and you’ve got that extra man.

“We’re very aware how lucky we are and how well we’re supported. It’s something we’ve missed as a side and are very much looking forward to. We can’t wait to experience five good days of cricket along with everyone else in the crowd.

“Every individual takes it in slightly differently,” he added. “For me, it’s the excitement of it… there’s a showman in everyone, if you like, you want to go out there and put on a show for everyone and it’s an opportunity to do that in your own way.

“We’ve all missed that interaction with the fans and the crowd. There’s certain bowlers – you look at Ben Stokes, Stuart Broad – they respond to that atmosphere in the ground in a really positive way. It could be a real boost for us and play into our hands.”

Root also urged his young batter to park the anxieties that they showed in the Lord’s Test, and put their focus into the occasion of representing England in a Test match, rather than worry that, with Stokes and Jos Buttler likely to return for the India series, they are already playing for their places.

“I see it as an opportunity to go out and score Test runs for their country and I hope they view it like that,” Root said. “They have an opportunity, but also a responsibility to play the situation in front of them to the best of their ability, and to try and eradicate any other thoughts, other than getting absorbed in that moment and get ready for that next ball.

“That’s the mindset we want to create,” he added. “Guys come into this team and can seamlessly fit in and do their roles. Hopefully guys will feel like that tomorrow and take their chance. The lads are fully aware of that and are talented enough to make big contributions.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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