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Joe Root defends Moeen Ali after England suffer heavy defeat in Ashes opener
Moeen struggled while Australia spinner Nathan Lyon shone for the tourists.
Joe Root insists England will “not make too many emotional decisions” after they crashed to a 251-run defeat against Australia at Edgbaston to fall 1-0 down in the 2019 Ashes.
England needed to bat out the final day to escape with a draw but Nathan Lyon’s six for 49 hastened their demise, all out for 146 before tea as Australia drew first blood in the Specsavers series.
Lyon’s efforts threw Moeen Ali’s ineffective contribution into harsh light, with England’s premier off-spinner offering neither a consistent threat nor control on day four as Australia were allowed to rack up a mammoth total.
Moeen’s place in the XI has come under scrutiny, with Jack Leach tipped to replace the Worcestershire all-rounder in the second Test at Lord’s next week, but England captain Root was tight-lipped about the situation.
Root said: “With Mo, you’ve got to remember how threatening he can be and what an asset he has been to this team in the past. Whenever he’s been written off before he generally comes back stronger, especially in English conditions.
“He’ll be a bit disappointed about how Sunday went and how this game’s gone but I’m sure he’ll dust himself down and make sure he’s in a good head space going into Lord’s.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re very clear about we approach the next game and not make too many emotional decisions. We’ll sit down as a selection panel and pick a squad from there.”
Root also defended the decision to field James Anderson after England’s record wicket-taker was restricted to four overs on the opening morning before suffering an injury to the same right calf that left him doubtful to feature in Birmingham.
His absence seemed decisive as England’s bowling options were limited thereafter, while his prognosis for the rest of the series remains unclear.
Asked if he regretted selecting Anderson, Root replied: “No, not at all. He passed every medical testing. He was fit to play.
“It’s one of those freak scenarios where he pulled up – because it’s the same calf, we’re not sure whether it’s a slightly different injury, we’ll have to wait to see what the scans say.
“But it’s an easy thing to look back on and say we’d have done things differently. It was a unanimous decision for him to play.
“Jimmy in those conditions, if he bowls 15 overs, things could have been very different in the first innings in general, it’s a different game completely.”
With Anderson unlikely to feature at the Home of Cricket, Jofra Archer has been heavily linked to make his Test bow.
Archer, England’s leading wicket-taker at the World Cup, will look to prove his own fitness in a Sussex Second XI fixture this week.
Root added: “With Jofra, we’re in a slightly different situation where he’ll have played a lot of cricket in between and we’ll have a clearer idea of where he’s at.”
Steve Smith was once again England’s nemesis, becoming only the fifth Australian to compile hundreds in either innings of an Ashes Test, with the hosts – as they had been in the 2017-18 series Down Under – seemingly powerless to stop the batsman.
Root said: “He’s got to start again when he gets to Lord’s. We’ve got to make sure that we make it very difficult for him to get in. When we get our chance early on, we’ve got to take it.”
Despite falling 1-0 down for the first time in a home Ashes series since 2005, Root was not unduly concerned, pointing out there were similar lows during their triumphant World Cup campaign.
He added: “Three days of this game we’ve pretty much controlled and been in charge of, barring an hour and a half. It’s easy to forget all of the good stuff we’ve done with a bowler down.
“It’s been frustrating the way it’s turned out but we’ve got to see it for what it is.
“Seeing emotionally how things changed throughout the World Cup is probably a good example to the group. Look at where things seemed to be after that Sri Lanka game, and where we finished up.”