Stokes appointed as vice-captain, praises new found ‘maturity’
BIRMINGHAM: England batsman Joe Denly confirmed yesterday he will drop to number four for England’s opening Ashes Test against Australia, with captain Joe Root replacing him at number three in the order. Root has previously made clear he prefers batting at four but the Yorkshireman is understood to have approached England coach Trevor Bayliss after last week’s Test win over Ireland about returning to his old position of first-wicket down when the Ashes opener starts at Edgbaston on Thursday.
Although England beat Ireland by skittling out the visitors for 38 in their second innings at Lord’s, they only managed 85 all out themselves in their first innings. Bayliss has long wanted Root, England’s best batsman, to bat at number three following a succession of top-order collapses that have seen the skipper walking out to bat at four when two cheap wickets have fallen. Root averages 48 at number four in the order but a shade over 40 when batting at number three.
But with England openers Jason Roy and Rory Burns having played just eight Tests between them, the logic in having 81-Test veteran Root bat at number three is clear. Denly, speaking at Edgbaston on Tuesday, said: “Joe Root will bat at three and I’ll be batting at four. “He rang me the other day and told me he wanted to bat three and for me to go in at four. I think Rooty just wanted to get involved in the game, get up there and get out in the middle. “I’m very excited. I wasn’t too fussed where I’d be batting, it’s just great to be in the eleven. I’ve batted at four before for Kent and throughout my career, so it really wasn’t a big issue.”
Stokes hails new maturity
England’s Ben Stokes says learning not to try to “please everyone” helped him mature and regain the Test vice-captaincy ahead of the Ashes series starting this week. The 28-year-old, fresh from playing a pivotal role in England’s thrilling World Cup victory earlier this month, has been appointed as Joe Root’s number two for the five-Test series against Australia.
The all-rounder was banned and fined by the England and Wales Cricket Board for bringing the game into disrepute following a street brawl in Bristol in 2017. He missed five months of international cricket, including the last Ashes tour of Australia, before being cleared of affray in a court case in August 2018. “One thing I have stopped trying to do is please everyone, which is probably a downfall I would look back on,” he told the BBC. “I’m not a different person. I think maturing is the best way of saying it and having a understanding of a lot more things.”
Stokes, who has been described as the “real heartbeat” of the England team by Australia great Ricky Ponting, said now he focused solely on making those closest to him happy. “Trying to please everyone every minute of every day was something I always tried to do,” said Stokes. “Just try and keep the people happy who are important to you and make an impact on the way your career can go.”
Stokes, who was rested for last week’s one-off Test match with Ireland, said being stripped of the vice-captaincy had been hurtful. “To have the role taken away was very disappointing and it did hurt,” he said. “To have it back just before the Ashes, I’m super excited. Joe (Root, Test captain) and I work really well together. “He doesn’t have a yes man stood next to him — I’ll tell him what I think.” The five-Test series begins on Thursday at Edgbaston, with England bidding to regain the Ashes after a 4-0 thrashing in Australia in 2017-18. The Australians are looking to win their first series in England since 2001.