LONDON (Reuters) – Joe Denly will swap places with struggling opener Jason Roy in the England batting order for the fourth Ashes test against Australia at Old Trafford, he said on Monday.
Roy, who was handed his test debut after an impressive World Cup-winning campaign, has failed to deliver at the top of the order in the first three tests, scoring 57 runs in six innings with a highest score of 28.
Denly’s patient half-century in the second innings of the third test, where he shared a 126-run stand with Root, set up the win for the hosts who were chasing a daunting target of 359 to level the series.
“I got a call from Joe Root after a bit of time off and he said he’d like for me to go at the top of the order and try and get us off to a good start,” Denly told BBC.
“Obviously, Jason’s going to bat at four. With Jason in the team, I think we’re a better team for sure.
“With him coming in at four with hopefully the new ball worn off, and hopefully myself and (opener) Rory (Burns) doing our jobs at the top, it enables him to come in and play his way. He’s a dangerous player so he’s great to have there.”
Australia’s Steve Smith, who scored 378 runs in three innings, is set to return to the side after missing the third test due to concussion.
Smith was hit on the neck by a rising Jofra Archer delivery during the second test at Lord’s and England fast bowler Stuart Broad expects the former skipper to be well-prepared.
“Whenever a batsman seems in great rhythm, a period of time out of being in the middle could affect them but he’s a world-class batsman,” Broad said. “He’ll be very ready for the conditions he will face here at Old Trafford.
“There’s been a little bit of to and fro between him and Jofra. And Jofra will be excited to continue that battle. Smith will be very hungry to come back into a crucial test match.”
England’s one-wicket win at Headingley prevented Australia from retaining the Ashes, and Broad said this was the most closely-contested series he had been a part of.
“The momentum of that test match shifted to England and with that the series,” Broad said. “I don’t think I’ve ever played in an Ashes that has been as closely matched man-to-man.
“The teams are so close and you can see that by the punches being thrown by each side and how they’re soaking it up. It’s a fascinating series to be involved in.”
The fourth test in Manchester starts on Wednesday with the series level at 1-1. The final match at The Oval in London begins on Sept. 12.
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond