Joe Root has been passed fit for the first one-day international against Australia after recovering from a viral illness.
Root was hospitalised on the final morning of the Ashes in Sydney having been stricken with a bad case of gastroenteritis and sat out Thursday’s warm-up match against a Cricket Australia XI.
But the Test captain has finally shaken the bug and will give the tourists a major boost by reclaiming his place in the top order for Sunday’s Gillette Series opener.
The 27-year-old took a full part in England’s net session, which took place indoors due to a downpour at the MCG, and emerged in rude health.
HERE. HE. COMES!
— Cricket on BT Sport (@btsportcricket) January 8, 2018
Limited-overs skipper Eoin Morgan said: “Joe is good and should be fit to play tomorrow.
“He’s extremely important. He’s been a fantastic leader within the group and, on top of that, there’s the weight of runs he’s scored and the manner that he’s scored them.
“He’s obviously a key part. He’s a very versatile player and can score in any strike-rate that needs to be required, given the situation. He’s very important.”
Morgan did not offer any further clues about the make-up of the England’s team but hinted that all three openers – Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy and Alex Hales could be accommodated.
That may lead to Hales slotting in at number three, with Sam Billings vulnerable to any such switch.
“That is an option,” said Morgan. “Our batting has been our strength over the last couple of years and we don’t want to compromise that, so it’ll be a case of picking our strongest six, plus an all-rounder possibly, or an extra seamer.”
While the recently concluded Ashes series unfolded at an attritional pace, both sides are likely to approach the next five games in a more cavalier fashion.
— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) January 13, 2018
England rebranded their limited-overs game dramatically since they were last one these shores, the abject 2015 World Cup campaign which exposed some outdated ideas and became a watershed moment for the team.
And Morgan is clear there is no going back.
“That tournament had quite a significant role for us, really,” he said.
“After that, a line was drawn in the sand and we were given clear directives that the goal was the 2019 World Cup. To bridge the gap between where we were at in that World Cup and, say, being in the semi-final or the final was the first port of the call and bridging that gap came quicker that we ever thought it would.
“We got a huge amount of confidence from the selectors and Andrew Strauss, our director of cricket, gave absolute clarity in what we wanted.
“We certainly thrived on that. It’s not often you get free rein and ambition to be adventurous as you like.”
— Test Match Special (@bbctms) January 13, 2018
The Dublin-born batsman is often seen as a trailblazer within English cricket, a player who saw the need to adopt new methods and accelerate more quickly in one-day cricket before many of his compatriots caught up.
Morgan has proved the ideal man to usher in a new breed of cricketers who play with the handbrake off but he believes the evolution of the format is continuing at a rapid rate.
Indeed, with head coach Trevor Bayliss set to leave when his contract expires next September, Morgan offered tentative support for the return of a split backroom team – with one man in charge of Test cricket and another overseeing the white-ball unit.
England were the first to adopt such an approach, when Ashley Giles and Andy Flower share the roles and while that ultimately proved unsuccessful, it may simply have been ahead of its time.
“I think down the line there will be (a chance),” suggested Morgan.
“Cricket is going to change even more in the next 10 years than it has in the previous 10 years. I’d say, if anything, the formats are getting further and further apart. So I’m open to it.”
New Zealand clinched the one-day series win over Pakistan in emphatic fashion as they bowled the tourists out for 74.
The Black Caps set Pakistan a target of 258 in their 50 overs, following standout performances from Kane Williamson (73) and Ross Taylor (52).
The home side did experience a middle order wobble – the wicket of Taylor came one ball before that of Henry Nicholls (0), and four wickets fell in 12 balls for just 13 runs.
In response, Pakistan were never really at the races. Azhar Ali went for a duck, while fellow opener Fakhar Zaman went for two.
Wickets continued to tumble and it looked like the lowest ever ODI total of 35, set by Zimbabwe in April 2004, may have been troubled.
Faheem Ashraf (10), Mohammad Amir (14) and Sarfraz Ahmed (14no) saved Pakistan from that ignominy in Dunedin, as Trent Boult took a five-for as the Black Caps took a 183-run win and an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series, with two matches left to play.
When the No1 Test team in world is shot out for 135 chasing 208 in an away Test, it might look odd to be anything but critical of it. But dig a little deeper than an obligatory scan of the scoresheet and the opening Test was not all doom and gloom for India.
Firstly, full credit to South Africa for batting first on a pitch that had a lot of grass on it and then winning despite being without a crucial member of their pace attack in Dale Steyn in the second innings. Vernon Philander is a master in home conditions and he alone was enough to decimate the Indian line-up. Actually, he would have been enough for any line-up.
The wicket at Newlands turned out to be a lot juicier than even the hosts expected; despite the severe drought in the region leading up to the match. The track became even more difficult to bat on on the fourth day after the third was washed out.
India went into the match with next to zero preparation – which is completely their fault – and ended up conceding 286 on a spicy pitch. That’s where they lost the game as the South African pace attack was never going to let them anywhere close to that total. Apart from Hardik Pandya’s breath-taking 93 India’s batting did not live up to the mark, there is no doubt about it, but the fact is it was a 150-200 wicket throughout and the Proteas’ first innings total was where the game was effectively settled.
Brilliant from Philander. India can be proud of the way they bowled but was too much for the batsmen. Shows you conditions are king in test cricket— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) January 8, 2018
In the second innings, Indian bowlers found their mark and dismissed the hosts for 130. The pace trio of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah clicked together, something that was missing in the first innings after reducing South Africa to 12-3. For all the brilliance of the AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis’ counter-attack in the first outing, it was not a (nearly) 300-run pitch. Remember, South Africa went in with just six specialist batsmen. Bumrah, especially, struggled with his line in his debut outing but once his nerves settled, he did what was expected of any quality quick on that pitch.
As India’s pace pack found their zone, the South Africans struggled to put bat to ball and lost 10 wickets for 78 runs in their second innings. However, by that time Virat Kohli’s bunch had fallen well behind. Even with Steyn out of the attack, Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel were always going to be lethal as the ball jagged around at acute angles. There was never going to be any escape.
India not disgraced in defeat. But as @imVkohli & Co lick their wounds, they'll wonder what may have been with some greater resolve shown. Promise to be a cracker of a series if India take some learnings from this hard lesson— Cricketwallah (@cricketwallah) January 8, 2018
India will take a long hard look at their performance in the first Test and will revisit their batting combination – namely the non-selection of KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane.
However, Test series of three matches or more are always decided by which team has the more potent and consistent bowling attack. That was the case in the Ashes in Australia and will be the case in South Africa as well. The South African pace attack will not lose its quality overnight. The pitches for the next two Tests in Centurion and Johannesburg are expected to be even nastier than Cape Town. Good luck if you are a batsman.
However, what the Indian bowlers can do is make sure than on pitches with so much help in them, they don’t concede 300. Good pacers should be able to dismantle any batting line-up on such wickets, day in and day out.
The South Africans will be buoyed by their ultimately convincing win. But the Indians should not get too flustered. There is a lot more drama left in the series.