BEN STOKES will start the third Test for England against India at Trent Bridge tomorrow (18), just four days after being cleared of affray.
England captain Joe Root confirmed today (17) that the all-rounder would be back in the starting eleven at the expense of the unfortunate Sam Curran, who was man of the match in the opening test at Edgbaston.
“It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make as captain. It’s about us as a squad delivering over five games and on this occasion Sam is unfortunate to miss out,” said Root.
“Ben is desperate to get back playing cricket. He’s desperate to get out there, put in performances and concentrate on his cricket now. He feels ready to play.
“I have known Ben from being really quite young and I feel very confident he will be able to go out and put in a performance.”
The 27-year-old Stokes is plunged straight back into the spotlight after an 11-month saga ended when he was found not guilty of affray following the late-night street brawl in Bristol last September after England had won a one day international against West Indies.
Coach Trevor Bayliss has backed Stokes’ return, saying it was “for his own well-being”.
India’s head coach Ravi Shastri faces a very different problem of how to raise spirits with his team, the world’s number one ranked Test side, staring at the indignity of losing the five-match series after just three Tests.
England lead the five-match series 2-0 and victory in Nottingham will see them retain the Pataudi Trophy.
In the first test to start on a Saturday in England since they played South Africa at the Oval in 1955, India have to improve their batting urgently and will be grateful that captain Virat Kohli, the only one to shine amid the ruins, is fit after suffering back spasms at Lord’s.
Shastri has called on the Indian batsmen to show “resolve” even if it means they look “ugly and dirty” at the crease, as they try to fight back against England.
The 56-year-old told reporters at Trent Bridge yesterday (16): “Batsmen from both teams have struggled.
“When the occasion demands, it’s a case of mental resolve, how you put mind over matter and mental discipline will be the key as far as batsmen are concerned going forward in this Test match.”
India had the worst of the conditions at Lord’s, batting under overcast skies and on a pitch freshened by pre-match and in-game rain – an environment made to order for England new-ball duo James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Shastri, however, added: “Conditions have been tough as you have seen right through this series. But that’s where character and discipline come into play, the resolve to know where your off stump is, to leave a lot of balls, be prepared to look ugly and dirty and show some grit.”
Shastri said it was vital India did not brood on what had happened at Lord’s as they looked to regain a foothold in the series.
“Just believe in yourself,” he said. “You have been in this position couple of times before and you have responded.
“One thing for sure in this unit, there is no negative bone.
“In spite of what happened in the last Test match, conditions favoured England and that is no excuse whatsoever, it can happen to any side.
“We are here without a negative bone, wanting to play to win, as simple as that.”