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Joe Root has been left hoping that the undoubted adversity surrounding his England team thanks to Covid complications and an Ashes drubbing can “galvanise” the players into finding a face-saving performance in Sydney this week.
England surrendered the Ashes inside 12 days’ cricket with a poor performance in Melbourne, following a dreadful buildup ruined by rain and Cricket Australia’s ever-more baffling decision to start the series in Queensland, which required a two-week quarantine period on arrival.
England have trained in Sydney without four of their support staff, who remain stuck in Melbourne having tested positive for Covid-19. That has led to more player-led training sessions, with head coach Chris Silverwood, Jon Lewis and Jeetan Patel among those missing. Root is among the players who have been throwing balls at batters in the nets.
“With the amount of coaches we’ve had missing, it’s made things slightly disjointed and challenging,” Root said. “But it’s an opportunity for us as a group to come tightly together, help each other prepare as well as we can do, and stand up in a bit of adversity and use that in a positive way when we get out there.
“Sometimes when you look around the dressing room and see someone who has helped you out, it can galvanise you as a team.
“That is what we need now: stick tight, stay together. It would be easy to get fractious and point fingers at who could be better but we are in this together. As a team we have not performed as well as we can do. We have to stand up, and take our chances here.”
“We are all feeling for those guys sat in isolation desperately wanting to help us turn things around and we’ve got an opportunity in these two games to do that. We have to make sure we stand up and show we are a better team, which I know we are, than we’ve produced so far on this tour.
“See that as an opportunity, don’t see it as a heavy burden, see it as a real chance to make some big Test runs, win a game with ball in hand and walk away from the trip with something.”
Having made four changes to their XI in Melbourne, England seem likely to opt for continuity in Sydney. Root will name a trimmed squad of 12, or perhaps even an 11, on Tuesday.
The top seven is expected to be the same, with Stuart Broad likely to come in to the bowling attack – probably for Ollie Robinson – who has tired as the tour has gone on. He is the only member of England’s frontline pace attack to play all three Tests so far.
Broad is likely to find the surface and conditions to his liking (at least more than in Adelaide), with a tinge of green two days out and rain forecast.
Australia batter Steve Smith admitted surprise that Broad has missed out on green wickets in Brisbane and Melbourne.
“We have been a bit surprised,” Smith said. “Two wickets that would have suited him pretty well.
“He bowled well in Adelaide. He’s always been a good contest for me. He’s got me out quite few times, I’ve scored some runs off him so it’s been a decent battle.
“They’ve got quality bowlers. Him and Jimmy together are two world class performers, they have been for a long time.
“Maybe we’ll see them out here together this week, I’m not sure.”