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2nd Test: Joe Root boost for England against West Indies

England have dropped batsman Joe Denly for the second Test against the West Indies, returning captain Joe Root confirmed on Wednesday. Root missed England’s four-wicket loss in last week’s first Test after attending the birth of his second child. But the star batsman has slotted back into the side for the second Test at Old Trafford starting today. Last week’s victory left West Indies 1-0 up in the three-match series. A win in either of the two remaining matches, both being staged at Old Trafford, would see the tourists to their first Test series triumph in England for 32 years.

Although all three fixtures are being played behind closed doors because of the Coronavirus outbreak, Root will be in a familiar situation. England have now lost the opening match of a series for the eighth time in 10 campaigns, a run dating back to the 2017/18 Ashes in Australia. Most recently in South Africa they did recover from a heavy defeat in the first Test to win that series 3-1. But now at 1-0 down with just two to play, there is far less margin for error.

Denly, 34, was always likely to make way after two low scores in last week’s loss at Southampton left him with a modest average of 29.53 from 15 Tests. Denly’s place was put under further threat by an innings of 76 from Kent teammate Zak Crawley at the Ageas Bowl. “It’s never an easy decision, never easy having to leave someone out,” Root told a conference call on Wednesday.

“With Joe [Denly] over a period of time he’s done a brilliant job for us, he’s helped show our identity as a side and how we played moving forward. It’s a very difficult decision but we’ve gone a different way.” The Yorkshireman added: “You watch Zak’s progression since he’s been involved in the team, his game has continued to get stronger.

“Joe is someone who has done a fantastic job for us over a period of time and he’ll be as frustrated as anyone that he’s not been able to covert those opportunities.”

Given the second Test starts just days after the end of the first, fitness is likely to be the West Indies’s biggest issue as they return to Old Trafford, the venue for their quarantine period amid the pandemic and two subsequent intra-squad warm-up matches. The West Indies arrived in England with many doubting if their batsmen could give an impressive fast-bowling unit enough runs to play with.

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