England captain Joe Root ready to take the day-night challenge in his stride
Joe Root is determined his England team will not be spooked by the pink ball in this country’s first day-night Test match.
In just his second series as captain, Root must contend with the complication of an inaugural opening match under lights at Edgbaston as England seek to extend their sequence of home victories over West Indies to six – dating back to 2000.
In that time, the tourists have managed a solitary Test win – at this ground 17 years ago – and have lost 11 out of their last 13.
The advent of floodlights and pink ball loom as an odds leveller in some minds over the next five days, however, and it is therefore Root’s job to put that notion out of the equation.
At his pre-match press conference, he chose to do so by voicing respect for the opposition but insisting the best method of combating any variables posed by the pink Dukes under lights is to ditch the pre-conceptions and be ready to react best and first to the reality as it happens.
“We need to go into it with quite an open mind,” said Root, whose team were prescribed one extra practice session under lights in Birmingham on Monday following a mid-summer round of floodlit Specsavers County Championship matches as initial reconnaissance.
“I am expecting it to be tough, as Test cricket always is.
“Obviously there are different challenges, and it might throw up a different rhythm to the game.
“But I do think it is important not to look too far and have too many theories going into it, and that we react to what is thrown in front of us and make sure that if things do start to happen that are different from normal we respond to that quickly and win those sessions.”
Various theories abound about how the ball will react – especially once the floodlights take effect in the final sessions.
But Root advocates simply embracing the occasion, and ignoring much of the surrounding hype.
“It is a great opportunity for us to have the first bite of the cherry,” he said of his pink-ball pioneers.
“It looks like there are going to be some fantastic crowds so I hope it is a huge success and can widen the audience for Test cricket.”
That will include a bumper crowd in Birmingham, populated by a significant proportion yet to attend a Test match according to Warwickshire’s consumer data.
They will be treated to a variety of Caribbean-inspired sideshows, including an urban beach and rum shacks behind the Wyatt Stand – while England get on with the task of keeping their eye on the ball in the middle.
The new hours of play – 2pm until 9.30pm, instead off 11am until 7.30pm – will present an unaccustomed challenge which Root’s England will combat with common sense rather than any temporary lifestyle diktats from their medical specialists.
“We’re all adults, and everyone has their own way of preparing for games – this will be no different,” said the captain, who acknowledges the issue but is confident from his own experience of the pink-ball championship fixtures there will be no mid-match sleep issues.
“You are so tired from the work you have done on the field that you naturally want to go to bed.
“This is one of the different challenges this format presents.
“It is really important we recognise them on the field but also around the cricket that we deal with them very well.”
There should not be any pink-ball nightmares then, but Root insists West Indies – who won their last Test against England in Barbados, to draw the 2015 home series – are highly credible opponents, despite their lowly world ranking and miserable away record.
“Credit has to go to West Indies on that occasion,” he said, reflecting on the defeat in Bridgetown.
“They out-played us, and that’s a clear indication of what they’re capable of.
“They’re viewed as a side who have some very talented players who can produce match-winning performances.”
England are expected to prevail with ease nonetheless, as Root seeks consolidation after a 3-1 win over South Africa to foster belief for the Ashes winter ahead.
“I’ve never played an easy game of Test cricket, and I expect this to be a real big challenge for us,” he said.
“We’re very confident, but we don’t ‘expect’ anything. I think you’ve got to earn the right in Test cricket, and that doesn’t change whoever you play against.
“If we keep that mentality we had throughout the back-end of that South Africa series, we’ll give ourselves a really good chance of coming out on top.
“We have to make sure that at no time we sort of lower our standards and we maintain the intensity we had over those last two Tests in particular.”