Alastair Cook and Dom Bess have the full confidence of their captain Joe Root as they take up exacting challenges in the Lord’s Test.
For 20-year-old off-spinner Bess, the requirement is that he does himself justice on England debut against Pakistan – while for veteran opener Cook, the brief to extend a record-breaking career by rediscovering his best is becoming more urgent.
Root is enthused too by Ben Stokes’ return at the start of the home summer – after the game-changing all-rounder resumed his international career in New Zealand, having missed last winter’s Ashes defeat.
Stokes will feature in just one Lord’s Test this summer – he is due in Bristol Crown Court to answer a charge of affray when India are the opposition in August – but, Root insists, gives England a “different dimension” whenever he takes the field.
He is equally convinced that Cook, whose returns over the past year have included two double-centuries, but only 216 further runs at an average of 13.5 since last August, can demonstrate his enduring effectiveness.
At the age of 33, England’s all-time record runscorer is only 10 months younger than AB de Villiers, the South African star who announced his retirement from international cricket on Wednesday.
Root said, however: “He has huge amounts of experience, a lot of good memories at this ground.
“As far as I’m aware, I can see him playing for another couple of years at least.”
England have been able to bank on Cook for the past 12 years, in which he has racked up 154 Test caps.
“He’s such a big part of our dressing-room,” added Root.
“When he scores runs, it correlates with us doing well.”
At the other end of the age scale, Bess is about to become England’s youngest spin debutant since 1931 – and the captain has been struck already by his irrepressible demeanour.
“He is a very confident young man,” said Root.
“He has a lot of energy … and seems like he is really clear about what he wants to do in the game and how he is going to approach this week.
“That is all you can ask of somebody going to make his debut, which is really exciting for me as captain.”
Stokes’ presence has a similar effect on an England team which, without and then with him, endured a sequence of seven winless Tests in Australia and New Zealand.
“You can see he’s buzzing and desperate to get back out there,” said Root.
“You watch Ben train, and he sets the standard. He is a stand-out. If you watch a whole (practice) session, he does everything at match intensity and he helps drive it.
“To have his bowling as well will add to our attack and give us a different dimension. He knows that when he gets out there he will give absolutely everything for England.”
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