By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Skipper Joe Root looks certain to bat at number three in the first Ashes test starting at Edgbaston on Thursday in the latest attempt to beef up England’s flimsy top order.
Root, widely-regarded as England’s best batsman, has been reluctant to bat at three, probably as a result of the unreliability of a succession of opening combinations.
Talking ahead of the opener on Tuesday, Ashes debutant Joe Denly confirmed that Root had phoned him this week and said he wanted to bat at three, dropping Denly to fourth man in.
“I’m very excited,” the 33-year-old Kent batsman told Sky Sports. “I wasn’t too fussed really where I was batting, it’s just great to be in that starting eleven.
“I’ve batted at four before, playing for Kent and throughout my career so for me it was not a big issue.
“I think Rooty just wants to get involved in the game and get up there and get out in the middle and hopefully make a lot of runs. I don’t think there’s more to it than that.”
Denly batted at three in the one-off test against Ireland last week, scoring 23 in the first innings in which England were dismissed for an embarrassing 85. He made 10 in the second innings after being run out by Root.
Root has batted at three in 41 of his 149 test innings, averaging 31 compared to 46 at number four.
He has also opened the batting on a few occasions.
Rory Burns and one-day run machine Jason Roy are expected to open the batting against Australia’s fearsome pace attack on Thursday. They are England’s eighth different opening partnership in the past three years and the 16th since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)