England captain Joe Root will have no qualms about bowling his off-breaks during an upcoming two-Test series in Sri Lanka where the pitches are expected to provide plenty of turn for spin bowlers.
Although in the side primarily for his batting and leadership skills, Root does have 29 Test wickets to his name, with a best of 4/87 against South Africa at Port Elizabeth in January last year.
And with off-spinner Moeen Ali ruled out of the series opener in Galle starting Thursday as he continues his quarantine following a bout of coronavirus, Root could end up balancing England’s XI as a third slow bowler in support of Dom Bess and left-armer Jack Leach.
England do have specialist spinners Mason Crane, Amar Virdi and Matt Parkinson among their travelling reserves but including any one of them in the side could leave the tourists with an unduly weakened batting line-up.
When Root led England to a 3-0 series sweep in Sri Lanka in 2018, Moeen, Leach and leg-spinner Adil Rashid took 48 wickets between them.
World Cup-winner Rashid, however, has since become a white-ball specialist as he looks to prolong his career by guarding against a persistent shoulder injury and only Leach of that trio is available to Root on Thursday.
Although Root’s Test wickets have come at an expensive average of nearly 50 apiece, he has taken some prize scalps and the Yorkshireman said Tuesday he was ready to turn his arm over against Sri Lanka should the need arise.
“I’ve readied myself for it,” Root told a conference call with British-based reporters. “I’ve prepared for it in practice and it does seem to be coming out okay at the moment.
“With any attack, in any conditions, it’s about performing in partnerships and working with guys at the other end. I’ll just try to execute the role that is needed. If it is the case that I need to bowl longer spells than previously and take a bigger workload in this series then I’m looking forward to that challenge.”
England have sometimes proved slow starters in recent campaigns, a particular handicap in a short series.
The memory of England’s collapse to 58 all out against New Zealand in Auckland three years ago, which all but put paid to their hopes of a series win, remains all too vivid for Root.
“So many times in these two-match series, it’s imperative you get off to a good start,” said Root. “Look back to New Zealand, we had a terrible first morning session and it wiped the series out for us.
“We have started series poorly, as was mentioned last summer (in England), and if we are to keep improving as a team we can’t be behind the eight ball going into the second Test match of every series,” he added.
“We are very keen to start off strongly and to get ahead of the game. The way we are going to do that is by scoring big first-innings runs and controlling the game.”
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