When Pakistan were previously in England for a Test series, Babar Azam saw a promising start cut short by a bad break.  

The batsman made a half-century in the opening game at Lord’s in May 2018, but his involvement in the series was painfully cut short when struck on the left arm by a Ben Stokes short ball.  

Forced to retire hurt with 68 to his name, Babar did not appear again during the tour. A fracture ended his contribution as the tourists triumphed at the home of cricket, while he had to watch on as his side were crushed in the second Test at Headingley. 

At that stage of his career, Babar was viewed as a limited-overs specialist still making his way in the Test arena. With an average under 25 prior to playing England, he was – at the age of 23 – a player with obvious potential working out how to play the game of patience.

Just over two years on, he returns to England having enhanced his reputation to such an extent that the so-called 'Fab Four' - Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson - have company. It is unclear who identifies as the cricketing versions of Paul, John, Ringo and George, but Babar is not like the fifth Beatle – his identity is clear.

Start a discussion with cricket fans over who should be considered the lead act in the group and you are opening a cricketing can of worms. It is a topic that, understandably, stirs up national pride, but also heated discussions about the weight of importance given to each format. 

What is not up for debate, however, is that Babar deserves to be in the conversation. His white-ball numbers are outstanding – he averages over 50 in Twenty20 and one-dayers for Pakistan – yet his Test statistics in recent times provide additional evidence for those keen to argue his case.  

Indeed, his average of 75.9 across his 12 Test knocks since the start of 2019 is the best rate of any batsman to have 10 or more innings during that period. Better than Kohli, despite the India captain piling on the runs at home against South Africa, including a career-best 254 not out. Better even than Smith, whose Ashes heroics last year were so crucial in helping Australia retain the urn on English soil.  

He also sits above the same pairing when it comes to contributing for his team, providing an astonishing 22 per cent of Pakistan’s total Test runs over the period. There is clearly substance to the style now, a determined streak to go with the eye-catching technique.  

Ricky Ponting, the former Australia captain, tipped Babar to become one of the best in the world at the start of the year; he was a little late to get on board a bandwagon that now offers standing room only. 

"I think he is right up there already," Azhar Ali, Pakistan's Test skipper, said on the eve of the series opener with England at Old Trafford. 

"His performances have improved massively in Test matches over the last year or so. Firstly, he was performing really well in white-ball cricket and people thought he was only a white-ball player, but he took on that challenge and played with a lot of freedom and flair.” 

Babar's career totals do not stand up to the sheer volume scored by Kohli, Root, Smith and Williamson - at least not yet. Still, since 2018, he sits above the quartet in terms of Test average (65.5) and strike-rate (63.2 runs per 100 deliveries).

That stretch includes a memorable maiden hundred on home soil. While rain ruined the spectacle of the first Test played in Pakistan for over a decade, Babar brightened up the final day against Sri Lanka in Rawalpindi with an unbeaten 102 that delighted the crowd who had patiently waited to see their team return.  

Scores of 60 not out, 100 and 143 followed in the remainder of a truncated series, all from a player who did not reach three figures until his 17th Test. 

Prior to that breakthrough innings against New Zealand in November 2018, Babar had managed an unspectacular 822 runs at 30.4. Since then, though, there have been four more three-figure scores in 10 games, plus a 97 in a losing cause against Australia in Adelaide when no colleagues were willing to stick around in support. 

Pakistan are likely to lean on him heavily again in England, particularly as they come up against a team brimming with fast-bowling options and fresh off a 2-1 series victory over West Indies. 

Babar's development - including a highly productive Cricket World Cup campaign last year on English soil, as well as finishing top run-scorer in the T20 Blast while playing for Somerset - suggests he will relish the challenge.

The head-to-head battle with Root will be one of the main storylines, too. England's captain has much on his plate in the coming weeks, including fathoming out a way to nullify the brilliant Babar, who has stylishly climbed his way into the top tier of international batsmen.

At first glance, Joe Root does not look like the type of batsman that makes for a successful T20 player. Obdurate in the Test arena and the solid anchor sheet in One-Day Internationals, Root doesn’t seem to have the swashbuckling, sometimes even kamikaze-like penchant for attacking bowling that the best proponents of the shortest form of the game seem to possess. But, for some reason, maybe his incredible work ethic has helped him, he has adapted.

Root depends on deft touches and manipulations of the field to accumulate his runs, but his ability to do so is so exquisite that he could hurt a team without ever hitting a six. In fact, Root has only ever hit 16 sixes for England in 32 T20I outings. He has, however, scored five half-centuries in that period and averages above 35. The story is similar in the T20 arena where he has scored nine half-centuries in 20 games at an average of 30 and a half. His strike rate of 126 in international cricket and 125 in T20s isn’t staggering, but it does show remarkable adaptability for a man who strikes at 50 in the Test arena and just 60 in ODIs.

Career Statistics (2011-present)

Full name: Joseph Edward Root

Born: December 30, 1990, Sheffield, Yorkshire (29)

Major teams: England, England Lions, England Under-19s, Sydney Thunder, Yorkshire, Yorkshire 2nd XI, Yorkshire Academy, Yorkshire Under-17s

Playing role: Top-order batsman

Batting style: Right-hand bat

Bowling style: Right-arm offbreak, Legbreak

 

T20I Career

Mat   Inns   NO    Runs    HS     Ave      BF      SR       100   50     4s      6s    

32       30       5      893      90*   35.72    707   126.30     0      5      92      16   

T20 Career

Mat   Inns   NO    Runs     HS     Ave      BF         SR         100   50    4s     6s     

72         66    13    1619      92*   30.54    1288      125.69      0      9    180    24    

 

Career Highlights

  • 32 T20I caps scoring 893 runs at 35.72
  • 1619 T20 runs at average of 30.54

Captain Joe Root hailed a "phenomenal achievement" from Stuart Broad after the England seamer passed 500 Test wickets in the series-clinching win over West Indies.

The 34-year-old Broad wrapped up England's 269-run victory at Old Trafford by dismissing Jermaine Blackwood, securing a 10-wicket haul in the match.

That was his 501st Test wicket, the landmark having been reached earlier in the day when he pinned Kraigg Brathwaite lbw, as Broad added 4-36 to his first-innings 6-31.

Broad also cracked a rapid 62 with the bat in an important first-innings knock, just as West Indies were disrupting the home side's momentum.

Root commended England on back-to-back Old Trafford wins that he described as "excellent", after the hosts lost the first game at Hampshire's Rose Bowl.

He said the bowling had been outstanding, and Root was delighted with Broad particularly, the 34-year-old having been recalled after being overlooked for that opening defeat.

"For him to come back into the team and over the course of the two games have such an impact is testament to how good a player he has been for England over such a long period of time," Root said on Sky Sports.

"I couldn't be more happy for him to finish off the way it did today. Runs in the first innings, 10 wickets in the game, 500 Test match wickets ... it's a phenomenal achievement.

"It sort of sums Stuart up - he gets on those hot streaks and has real impacts in games. He wants to be a part of those big occasions and I'm really pleased for him to get to that milestone.

"There's so many different occasions - a number of different Ashes series where he's done it, in Johannesburg, with his match-winning spell there, here within this series. He's that sort of guy that really grabs the game and wrestles it in your favour."

Broad and James Anderson were back in tandem, with England's most prolific Test bowlers continuing to set high standards. Only seven bowlers in the history of Test cricket have taken 500 wickets or more, and England currently have two of them within their ranks.

Chris Woakes stepped up in the second innings to take five wickets, and Root sees the influence of England's two bowling talismen rubbing off.

"We're looking at two of England’s best bowlers of all time. I've said it before but we've got to understand how lucky we are to see them going about their business, playing alongside them, seeing them operate day in and day out," Root said.

"It's a real privilege to play alongside both Jimmy and Stuart and hopefully it's going to happen for a lot longer as well."

With Jofra Archer also offering a pace threat, Root believes England are supremely strong in that department.

He said: "You look at the talent that's among those guys and it offers a huge amount, and I feel like they could exploit a lot of different surfaces around the world."

Joe Root recalled Jofra Archer and James Anderson to an England team a batsman light due to Ben Stokes' injury concerns.

England face West Indies in the third and final Test at Old Trafford on Friday needing to win to regain the Wisden Trophy.

As for the second match, Root has altered his attack, although Mark Wood again misses out.

Archer - unable to play last time out after breaching biosecurity protocols - and Anderson are back, meaning Sam Curran makes way.

But with Stokes managing an injury, number three Zak Crawley has also dropped out to get the extra bowler in, seeing the rest of the order shift up.

That batting order was swiftly tested after Windies captain Jason Holder won the toss and, as in the previous match, opted to bowl first.

"We've balanced the side out as best we can and I actually feel like we've got a very good, well balanced team. I'm not worried about that at all," Root said, before quickly finding himself in the middle when Kemar Roach dismissed Dom Sibley lbw for a duck in the first over.

Of Archer's return, the captain added: "Jofra's ready to play. Over the last couple of days, he's got his smile back and bowled with real pace in the nets.

"He knows he's got the full support of the dressing room and the guys around him. We're really looking forward to him getting back out there and showing everyone how talented he is."

On the possibilty of Stokes bowling, Root said: "We'll have to see how things go. We can monitor that as the game progresses. But we have to make sure we look after him as best as possible."

Stokes - now the ICC's top-ranked all-rounder - revealed he had "been better" and was still unsure of the nature of the injury.

He said: "It's going to be a day by day thing. I was a little bit worried I wouldn't be able to offer everything I could with the ball, especially in the first innings."

The Windies have also made a change, meanwhile, bringing in spinner Rahkeem Cornwall for Alzarri Joseph in a match they need only to draw to retain the trophy.

Rain is forecast on four days in Manchester.

Joe Root admits it will be a major test of his captaincy to rein in Ben Stokes and ensure England do not place too great a burden on their talisman.

England are toying with deploying Stokes as a specialist batsman and taking bowling responsibilities off the Durham all-rounder for the series decider against West Indies.

The third Test gets under way on Friday at Old Trafford, the same venue where Stokes' brilliance paved the way for England's 113-run victory in the second match of the series.

Stokes is carrying a niggle that England would hate to become anything more serious, but Root knows just how difficult it will be to prise away any responsibility from the 29-year-old, who scored 254 runs in the previous contest and took three wickets.

"He wants to affect the game. That's the beauty of him," Root said. "He's desperate to be the man to turn things around and to win you the game."

Stokes has the ability to decide matches with bat or ball, but England have a lot of cricket to come in the weeks and months ahead, which is why Root is determined to at least not over-stretch him.

"There were a few occasions where I did check in with him first and second innings [in the second Test] and I said 'I think that’s enough' and he wanted one more [over]," Root said.

"He has matured as a player now and you sometimes have to put trust in a player to tell you when enough's enough.

"I feel like he's in a place where he can do that. That's the sort of commitment that you want to see from senior players and it feeds down into the rest of the group.

"He's definitely okay to play as a batsman. It's just how much of an impact he can have with the ball.

"We want to make sure we get the best out of Ben and I'm sure he wants to ride a wave.

"And it must be quite difficult when you're playing as well as he is to maybe have to rein it back in now and again. It is important that he's looked after."

Should Stokes let others take the bowling strain, it will mean England either going in with one fewer bowling option, or sacrificing a batsman to bring in another seamer.

They have abundant options, with Jofra Archer, James Anderson and Mark Wood vying for places with the pace attack from the second Test: Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran.

Root knows he cannot pick all six, and culling players could be particularly tough, given how close the skipper is to some members of the squad.

"It shouldn't come down to them being your mate or not," Root said. "If guys are upset and annoyed about it, that shows that they care and if they're annoyed with me for a few days then I have to deal with that."

Archer's inclusion in the 14-man squad reflects an eagerness to get back on the field, having been sidelined for the second Test after breaching strict protocol rules between the first Test in Southampton and England's current residency in Manchester by briefly returning to his Hove flat.

Root condemned as "disgusting" the social media abuse that Archer has faced recently, and stressed the Sussex quick has his full backing.

"I've had some good conversations with Jofra. It is important he's in a mentally good enough place to play the game," Root said. "We're all here to support him. I'm very excited to see him smiling and enjoying his cricket."

While understandable attention surrounds Archer, it could yet come down to the tried and tested partnership of Anderson and Broad opening the bowling for England.

"It's exciting to know there's pretty much 1,000 wickets between them and they could be leading the attack," Root said. "They're two of our best cricketers of all time and I feel they've got a lot left in both of them."

Ben Stokes could be forced out of England's bowling plans for the third Test against West Indies but Jofra Archer is delivering the ball "at the speed of light".

That was the verdict of captain Joe Root on Thursday as he readied the home team for the series decider at Old Trafford.

Talisman Stokes bowled 27.4 overs across two innings in the second Test, picking up three valuable wickets, as well as making 176 and 78 not out with the bat.

But England are determined to protect their star all-rounder and that may means he is selected as a specialist batsman on Friday morning.

"We'll have to be really clear on where Ben's at - he's still feeling it a little bit on his quad, so we're making sure he's fit to bowl and if not that might change how we go with things slightly," Root said.

"He pretty much spent the whole time on the field [in the second Test]. It was a long old game for him, but it does take a lot to keep him down and to take him out of the action.

"We'll see how he is in the morning and if you look at the squad of players we've got, we've got plenty of brilliant options.

"I feel like whatever combination we decide to go with will definitely be worthy of taking 20 wickets."

Quicks Jofra Archer, James Anderson and Mark Wood come back into the picture for the third Test, providing competition for Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad and Sam Curran in a 14-man squad.

Root explained Archer is raring to go and said the recent online racist abuse suffered by the Sussex paceman had been "disgusting".

Archer, who missed the second Test after breaching strict protocols on the team's bio-secure environment, said in a newspaper column he reported the racist abuse to the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Root said: "He's got his smile back. He's been bowling at the speed of light.

"It was disgusting to see some of the stuff he's had to put up with over the last week. As a squad we've tried to get round him and let him know we're all there for him.

"No-one should have to go through anything like that. There's no other word other than disgusting really."

Joe Root praised Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes after the duo were influential in helping England level the Test series against West Indies.

Stokes followed up his knock of 176 in the first innings with an unbeaten 78 that allowed England to set up the opportunity to push for victory on the final day, as he added quick runs on the fifth morning.

The all-rounder then picked up two wickets - including crucially ending Jermaine Blackwood's resistance on 55 - as West Indies, chasing an unlikely 312 for victory, were bowled out for 198.

Root acknowledged match-winning contributions are becoming a common occurrence from his vice-captain, telling Sky Sports after the triumph at Old Trafford: "It doesn't surprise me.

"You watch how Ben goes about his business in practice whether it be practice, fitness or anything, he leads the way in many respects.

"He seems to want to keep getting better and better and we're seeing those results out on the field as well.

"It's great for a lot of the younger guys to see that, you've got to put the hard yards in, he certainly does that and we're starting to see that feed into the rest of the team, which is a great place to be."

Broad had boosted the home team's hopes on the final morning of the second Test with three top-order wickets, having also previously produced a devastating new-ball burst in West Indies' first innings.

The seamer was a surprise omission from England's line-up for the opening Test in Southampton - a game West Indies won by four wickets - but, asked to lead a new-look pace attack, he seized his opportunity in Manchester.

Broad had spoken publicly about his disappointment at missing out at the Rose Bowl, with Root not surprised to see him go out and back up his words on the field.

"You always expect that from Stuart. Generally, when he says something, he goes out there and produces a performance to back it up," Root said. 

"He's led the attack brilliantly this week and, as we've always said, you feel like he's got a lot of cricket left to play in him.

"Once he gets that ball in his hand, there's always that spell in him that can turn a game. He did that this week."

Stokes cut short his 15th over in West Indies' second innings due to an apparent fitness issue but insisted afterwards he was fine. The series finale starts on Friday at the same venue.

"The body just started to get quite stiff," he said to Sky Sports after being named player of the match. "I said to Broady, 'My body is starting to get quite stiff, what do you reckon?' and he just said to stop.

"I remember three or four years ago against Pakistan I had the same thing and ended up blowing my calf, so I didn't want to take that risk."

The West Indies are in danger of losing the second Test in #raisethebat Series at Old Trafford, in Manchester.

At lunch on the final day, the West Indies have already lost their openers and Shai Hope with just 25 runs on the board but more importantly, still with 74 overs to face and 287 runs to get.

England only batted for 11 overs of the morning session as Ben Stokes went into limited-overs mode to help them push their lead to 311 before a declaration 11 overs into the day.

Stokes was unbeaten on 78 off 57 balls as England declared on 129-3, giving the hosts 85 overs to bowl out the West Indies and tie the three-match series at 1-1. They will have two new balls to get the victory.

Any result looks possible on the final day — as was the case in the first Test in Southampton last week, when the Windies won by four wickets after chasing down 200 for victory.

West Indies' aim will likely be survival, though, with the victory target of 312 unlikely.

Stokes smashed two sixes over long-off as the big-hitting allrounder and England captain Joe Root put on 53 runs in the first 43 balls of the morning before Root was run out for 22 — effectively sacrificing his own wicket to get Stokes back on strike.

Now alongside Ollie Pope (12 not out), Stokes still had time to slog Jason Holder down the ground for another six, pushing the lead past 300, before Root called them back in.

By then, England had made 92 runs off 66 balls.

The second new ball will be available for England after 80 overs.

John Campbell, 4, was the first to go, going caught behind off the bowling of Stuart Broad, while his opening partner Kraigg Brathwaite was trapped on the crease off the bowling of Chris Woakes for 12.

Shai Hope’s struggles with the bat have also continued as Broad got a delivery to nip back at him, taking the top of off stump, with the batsman hapless after his decision to play back to a fullish delivery.

Roston Chase, yest to score, and Shamarh Brooks, 2, are the batsmen at the crease.

England selected Stuart Broad, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes in their side for the second Test against West Indies - but the much-changed bowling attack will have to wait for their chance to impress.

Jason Holder won a delayed toss and, under heavy skies in Manchester, opted to bowl first as West Indies chase a series-clinching victory.

While the tourists are unsurprisingly unchanged after their four-wicket triumph in Southampton last week, England have made four alterations to their team.

Joe Root - who missed the previous game due to the birth of his second child - returns to captain this side in place of Joe Denly, but England are without Jofra Archer, who was excluded from the squad following a breach of bio-secure protocols.

The pace bowler is to isolate for five days, during which he will undertake two COVID-19 tests. Both results need to be negative before his period of self-isolation is lifted.

Archer's absence was only confirmed on the morning of the Test, England having already announced on Wednesday that fellow pace bowlers James Anderson and Mark Wood would be rested at Old Trafford.

The uncapped Ollie Robinson misses out as Broad, Curran and Woakes get the nod.

"A statement has gone out this morning and as a side we've got to look at the next five days and put in a good performance to bounce back from last week," Root told Sky Sports after the toss.

The England skipper also confirmed that despite Archer being ruled out, there was no consideration to adding either Anderson or Wood to the 12-man squad.

"With both of those, having come back from two serious injuries, it seemed very high risk to play them in this game," Root added. "This is a must-win game for us, but we have to look after them."

Jofra Archer has been excluded from England's squad for the second Test against West Indies following a breach of the team's bio-secure protocols.

The pace bowler claimed match figures of 3-106 in the series opener last week in Southampton, a game the tourists won by four wickets to go 1-0 up in the three-match series.

England will aim to draw level in Manchester but Archer will not be in their XI as he isolates for five days.

The 25-year-old will also undergo two COVID-19 tests during that period, with both results needing to be negative before his self-isolation is lifted.

With both teams staying at Old Trafford as part of the measures put in place for the series due to the coronavirus pandemic, West Indies have been informed of the situation and are satisfied with the measures imposed.

"I am extremely sorry for what I have done," Archer said in a statement released by England ahead of Thursday's opening day of play.

"I have put, not only myself, but the whole team and management in danger. I fully accept the consequences of my actions, and I want to sincerely apologise to everyone in the bio-secure bubble.

"It deeply pains me to be missing the Test match, especially with the series poised. I feel like I have let both teams down, and again I am sorry."

England announced on Wednesday that James Anderson and Mark Wood will be rested for the second Test, meaning the former misses out on playing at his home ground.

With Archer also now out, Stuart Broad appears certain to be recalled. The home side drafted in left-armer Sam Curran and uncapped Sussex seamer Ollie Robinson to a 13-man squad which also included Chris Woakes.

Joe Root returns to captain the team after missing the opening Test due to the birth of his second child.

James Anderson and Mark Wood have been rested by England for the second Test against West Indies, while Joe Denly has been dropped. 

The pacemen were part of the side that lost the series opener in Southampton last week but will not feature at Old Trafford, Anderson missing out on playing at his home ground.

With Anderson and Wood left out, Stuart Broad - a surprising omission from the line-up last week - looks set to earn a recall.

England have drafted left-armer Sam Curran and uncapped Sussex seamer Ollie Robinson into a 13-man squad as they strive to keep the series alive.

Another change sees captain Joe Root, who missed the opening Test due to the birth of his second child, return in place of batsman Denly.

Zak Crawley will move up a place in the order to bat at number three, with Root slotting back it at four.

England were unable to train outdoors on Wednesday due to bad weather, though Root has had a chance to look at the wicket as his side bid to level the three-match series. 

"I had a quick look yesterday – it has been under covers for the large part of yesterday evening and all of today," he told the media. 

"It looked like a good wicket and I’m expecting it to be just that really. Hopefully there is an opportunity for batters to go out there and make big scores, go on and convert some starts if we get in. With that, you want to see a bit of carry and bounce."

Meanwhile, Saqib Mahmood has left the Test party and will join up with England's white-ball training group on Thursday ahead of the home series against Ireland.

Jos Buttler has received the backing of returning England captain Joe Root, who is confident his team-mate can transfer his white-ball batting talents to Test cricket.

Wicketkeeper Buttler averages 31.46 in the longest format but has failed to get beyond 47 in his last 12 innings, a worrying slump in form that has seen his place in the team come into question, with Ben Foakes waiting in the wings.

The right-hander made scores of 35 and nine during the first Test against West Indies last week, with his second-innings dismissal coming during a collapse that swayed the game in the touring side's favour.

England lost at Southampton by four wickets but the under-pressure Buttler is set to keep his place for the game in Manchester, which begins on Thursday.

Returning skipper Root, who missed the series opener due to the birth of his second child, has seen technical improvements in Buttler's game to suggest a big score is just around the corner.

"I think you look at Jos and the game last week - and a I know we're in a results business and we're judged on performances - but you watch how he batted in that first innings and I thought, technically, it was as well as he's played in a long time," Root told the media on the eve of the second Test.

"His game is in a really good place, it's just a matter of time until we see some of those special innings that we've seen in white-ball cricket and his performances from that transfer across.

"He's someone that is a big part of our group – has been for a long time – and is a great thinker about the game. He's a big senior player in the dressing room across all formats.

"You feel he's not far away from grabbing Test cricket, taking it and running with it. I've seen big strides off the field with his technical game, I suppose you almost want him to find that balance and mindset he has in white-ball cricket and add it to a technique that can definitely thrive in red-ball cricket."

Root was a keen spectator back home as the action unfolded in Southampton, where all-rounder Ben Stokes took charge of the team for the first time.

The Yorkshireman admits it was not easy watching on afar when fully fit, though he saw enough from his players to suggest there are positive signs for the future, despite the result.

"It was challenging, more so because you're fully fit and could be out there, it's just a very strange set of circumstances," Root said.

"Ben as captain did a brilliant job. He had some very difficult decisions to handle and manage, and I think on the ground and throughout the game he managed things very well.

"One thing that I was really pleased with, actually, is the performance for the first two and a half days we were probably behind the game, but we managed to find a way of wrestling ourselves into a position where we could win it.

"In the past, sometimes we've fallen away a bit early, but going into those last two sessions we still had a chance at winning the game.

"In a way it was a small step forwards for us, though of course we couldn't quite get across the line.

"You look at the back-end of our second innings and that really did hurt us, but I think there were a lot of positive things to take from it. You could certainly see that, sat watching from home."

England have confirmed Root will come into the XI in a place of Joe Denly, while James Anderson and Mark Wood are both rested.

England captain Joe Root has confirmed he will take Joe Denly's place in the side for the second Test against West Indies.

Root missed the first Test at the Rose Bowl – which the Windies won by four wickets – due to the birth of his second child.

However, the skipper has returned for the second Test, which starts at Old Trafford on Thursday, with the tourists aiming to secure their first series win in England since 1988 in the longest format.

Denly makes way, with the 34-year-old batsman having made 18 and 29 behind closed doors in Southampton.

With Root coming in at number four, Zak Crawley will move up to bat at three – the 22-year-old keeping his place in the side on the back of an impressive 76 in the second innings last week.

England have not confirmed the rest of the team, with Stuart Broad vying to be included after the experienced paceman was left out for the first Test.

Ben Stokes revealed that Joe Root left him a message telling the stand-in England captain to "do it your way" in the first Test against West Indies at the Rose Bowl.

Stokes will lead his country for the first time when the three-match series starts in Southampton on Wednesday, with Root absent as his wife is due to give birth to their second child.

The all-rounder will be open to advice from his team-mates and welcomed input from Root.

"The best message that I've received was when I got my photos done yesterday with the blazer," Stokes said on Tuesday. "Rooty just left a message on the hanger which said: 'do it your way.'

"When I first got asked I said I'd be open to opinions. Just because Joe's not here, that doesn't mean I'm not going to use him.

"Joe's always been very open and willing [to take] to advice from players, so I think I'd be stupid to go away from that. 

"We've got so much experience in this team that it would be silly not to lean on that if I feel like I need some advice."

Stokes added: "With Joe and his personal situation it's been a case of letting him deal with that

"I haven't been on him too much but I'm sure once the Test match starts, I know he'll be at home watching and I know that his phone will always be available for me to get in contact with him if I need to."

The tourists were 2-1 winners when the two nations did battle in the Caribbean last year, but both have a new head coach and Stokes believes England are a different proposition now.

"I think there's a lot more clarity with everybody," he said. "We have an identity as a Test team.

"Whereas in times gone past, a few lads might have felt under pressure with guys knocking the door down in a negative way, now we look at that in a positive way where there's competition for places in the team.

"If you're not performing well as a player, there's someone right behind you ready to come in. That's a great place to be in, especially as an international side.

"We have an identity now as a Test team. For us going forward, it's about building on that identity.

"We have a goal of becoming the best team in the world so we're building towards that."

Ben Stokes will lead by example when he captains England against West Indies, says Dom Sibley.

With Joe Root absent from England's squad for the first Test in Southampton due to the birth of his second child, Stokes is to take charge for the opening game of the three-match series.

Sibley looks set to open the batting alongside Rory Burns as England return to action after a lengthy coronavirus-enforced absence.

"The boys are all raring to go. We've had the three-day warm-up which was good practice, we're all looking forward to getting out in the middle," said Sibley.

"[Stokes] is just going to do what he does, lead from the front, lead by example.

"His quality and energy on the pitch is a unique skill and presence. He'll just use that.

"He's someone the young guys look up to and will continue to do that regardless of whether he's captain or not."

Sibley scored his maiden Test 100 against South Africa in Cape Town in January and impressed on the tour, though he did not get chance to build on those displays prior to lockdown.

However, the 24-year-old – who revealed he has lost 12 kilograms over the course of the break – acknowledged the rest has been helpful.

"At the time I was raring to go and it's new for me to be playing for England, so I was buzzing to play every game," he added.

"But you've got to try and take it as a positive and to have a break after such a long winter was nice. To sit back and work out what I needed to improve on to keep doing well at this level, further my game.

"I'm trying to build on what I did in South Africa and hopefully contribute to a few wins. A few of us did quite well in South Africa, it feels like a lifetime ago but it's a case of trying to build on that and trying to score a few big scores in the series.

"I've been working hard during lockdown, it was probably needed to be fair. Over the winter I was carrying too much weight. I'm glad I'm feeling a bit fitter."

All of the upcoming matches will be played behind closed doors, though Sibley does not feel his game will be affected too drastically.

"If I could have had a choice, it's always a dream to play a Test at Lord's or at your home ground in front of a packed house," he said.

"Circumstances haven't allowed that to happen. I'd always choose to have a crowd in but maybe it might work to my advantage. It's not going to change how I play, I'm just going to do my thing."

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