Lord's decider is the defining Test of Joe Root's tenure so far

Joe Root's first summer as England captain features a defining final Test '“ a Lord's decider against West Indies.

Toby Roland-Jones appeals for a wicket during the 4th Test against South Africa at Old Trafford. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Toby Roland-Jones appeals for a wicket during the 4th Test against South Africa at Old Trafford. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Root’s men suffered an unexpected setback at Headingley last week when the Windies defied their critics and shocked England by pulling off their first Test win in this country in 17 years.

It would be an uncomfortable bottom line for the Yorkshireman’s maiden season in charge if, in the last of seven Tests in nine weeks, England come up short again and are forced to reflect on a mixed campaign of one 3-1 success over South Africa but then a 2-1 failure against tourists who have not won a Test series in this country since 1988.

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No-one will be able to quibble with Root’s own output, of course, as he goes in search of a world-record 13th consecutive Test with at least one half-century against his name.

He has been his own biggest critic of late, citing the need to turn more of those 50s into centuries.

Although England have come to rely on their captain’s
wonderful consistency at No 4, Root’s form is not among the conundrums they need to solve before the start of their Ashes campaign in Brisbane in November.

Tom Westley’s as yet inconclusive regression at No 3 is top of the list requiring a solution and the likely identity of their third seamer at the Gabba is another after England opted to replace Chris Woakes with Toby Roland-Jones for this match.

Asked about the prospect of going above AB de Villiers as the outright holder of the record for consecutive matches with half-centuries, Root said modestly: “I would much rather it be hundreds.

“Of course you want to be consistent, always contributing, but definitely I would like to convert a little bit more.

“I hope if I do go and get to a half-decent score I can kick on and make a bigger one.”

On the question of why Woakes has been dropped after returning from his side injury at Leeds, in favour of Roland-Jones on his home ground, Root suggested it is a “horses-for-courses” switch.

“Going into this week, we have picked the side that suits conditions best, and Toby deserves the opportunity,” said Roor. “He knows the ground extremely well.

“He has had some great success here over the years and is full of confidence through the way he has played in Test cricket this summer.”

On Woakes’ status above Roland-Jones in the longer term, suddenly the jury appeared to be out.

“It is hard to say,” added Root.

“The way he has played for England over the last year or so, and such a focal point of our team, it is hard to look past that. When someone like Toby comes in and does as well as he has, it is a great problem to have. You want guys putting their hands up, putting in strong performances and making it difficult to leave them out.”

Woakes was back at Headingley from a side injury which wrecked the majority of his season, and mustered only two wickets.

Root said: “He passed all the fitness tests and seemed fit... but it is difficult to balance between being physically fit and bowling the right amount in games.”

As for Westley, whose loss of form has coincided with an unpicking of his technique by some high-profile pundits, Root is hoping the answers can come from within rather than from “experts” beyond the boundary.

Root added: “Nobody knows his game as well as he does. He has had a lot of success over the years. He is very smart, intelligent and desperate to take his chance this week.

“One of the biggest challenges of coming into the Test environment is the exposure.

“It is trying to find a way of overcoming that and going out there and knowing your own game as well and being strong enough to trust that.

“Tom deserves the opportunity to play this week, and we hope he will go out and score a bag load of runs. I hope he can come back and show the strong character he has, and come back from a couple of low scores.”