Image courtesy of: Zimbio
England captain Joe Root has confirmed that Surrey opener Mark Stoneman will make his international debut in the first Test against the West Indies at Edgbaston on Thursday.
Stoneman, who will be Alastair Cook’s 12th opening partner since Andrew Strauss retired in August 2012, was called up to the Test squad to replace fellow opening batsman Keaton Jennings, who endured a torrid time with the bat as he only mustered 127 runs at an average of 15.87.
“He’s obviously got a huge amount of runs under his belt this year, in particular, and in previous seasons as well,” Root told Sky Sports. “He’s got a well-rounded game, he’s a bit more experienced having played a lot of county cricket and I’m excited to see him go and hopefully take his opportunity.
“Ideally you want some to come in and set the world alight and their career move forward from there but I’d like to think he’ll get a very good opportunity and some good game time with England.
“Of course you want [the top order] to be settled. You never want to go into a series with guys out of form or under pressure but I think that is one of the challenges of Test cricket.
“And, as a side, generally, we’ve responded quite well to that in the past and this is just a great opportunity for Mark to go out and show everyone how good a player he is.”
With Stoneman being the only change to the Test side, it means that all-rounder Chris Woakes, who recovered from a side strain, will watch the first day-night Test held in England from the sidelines. Uncapped Hampshire spinner Mason Crane was also overlooked.
“Chris Woakes and Mason Crane are the two guys who are going to miss out,” Root told Sky Sports. “I think it is a great opportunity for the rest of the guys to experience a pink-ball Test match for the first time and I’m really excited to get the week going.
“[Woakes] will definitely have wanted to play here but just with the lack of game time he’s had, we felt that just another week of loading up on overs and making sure he was absolutely ready after coming back from quite a serious injury was really important.
“That’s where we’re at, at the minute and I think Toby [Roland-Jones] deserves his opportunity here.”
While this will be England’s first taste of day-night Test cricket, the same can’t be said about the West Indies as they played a day-night Test match against Pakistan in Dubai last October.
Despite this, England are considered favourites to win the three-Test series, but Root warned his side not to let their guard down against a young West Indies side that will be looking to win their first Test series in England since 1988.
“I think there are different challenges that [the pink ball] brings and at different times of the day than you’d normally expect in Test cricket,” he said. “But, ultimately, it is still the same fundamentals of cricket and you’ve just got to make sure that when those difficult periods crop up that we respond well and quickly.
“I think it’s great that we’re giving [day-night Test cricket] the opportunity to work here, I’m sure it’ll be a very exciting spectacle. It’ll be interesting to see how this week pans out.”
Meanwhile, West Indies skipper Jason Holder has urged his side to come out firing on all cylinders and give England a run for their money.
“People have said negative things about us, people have said positive things about us but first we just have to focus on ourselves and forget what everyone else has said,” he said. “Our focus is to play good cricket. We’ve got our first Test here at Edgbaston, it’s a pink ball Test, we’ve played one before and we like the format.
“Pink ball cricket is not anything new to us, we’ve obviously had a Test match with the pink ball and it went well for us. Unfortunately, at the end of that game we weren’t able to get out on the winning side but there were many positives for us.
“I would say this is the full-strength Test squad we’ve got. I’m very, very happy with this bunch of guys. We just have to stick to the basics, stick to our processed plans and look to nail those down.”