Captain Joe Root's low-key approach will be tested

Joe Root
Joe Root
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Joe Root spared England the grand entrance speeches many anticipate from a new captain but has already made one big call which is still awaiting a verdict.

Root confirmed on the eve of the second Investec Test the already open secret that Gary Ballance's place in the team followed his own insistence that his fellow Yorkshire batsman is the right one to go in one position above him at number three for England.

He has therefore invested heavily in Ballance's return, after being dropped in India last winter - and comeback scores off 20 and 34 in the 211-run win over South Africa at Lord's have not yet put him in credit.

Root, however, is optimistic after his old flatmate's prolific form in his maiden season as Yorkshire captain that he will soon replicate for his country again.

"I thought the way he played in the second innings (at Lord's) was probably worth at least double on that surface," said Root.

"Those guys at the top made it look a lot easier than it was.

"That was proved in the result."

Experts identified familiar technical foibles in both Ballance's innings, but Root was impressed with what he saw.

"He looked very good and comfortable in the first innings until his dismissal, and put pressure back on the bowlers on occasions, and he will be desperate to make his opportunity count this week.

"The most important thing for him is his weight distribution, and that looks a lot better than it was maybe a year ago.

"He looks to me as if his game is in really good order.

"He just looks a lot more assured in himself and I honestly believe that he is not far away from making a really big score."

Asked specifically if Ballance was a 'captain's pick' at the start of this four-match series, and if he put in a word for him during selection meetings, Root said: "Yes.

"I take a lot of responsibility in the selection of the squad.

"There were a number of guys who were discussed, but it was hard to look past the number of runs he has scored and the way he has scored them this season."

Root believes Ballance's deployment at number three allows both of them to bat in their optimum position.

"I do think me batting at four is where I get the best out of myself, so I thought it was important I made that decision first and foremost.

"Looking at Gary, all his success for England and his best scores have come batting at number three.

"I think that is where we have had the best out of him in the past, and there's no reason why he can't do that again in this series."

It was Root's predecessor Alastair Cook who remarked this week that there was no major pronouncement of intent in the form of a choreographed speech to the team from the new man in charge.

"I didn't really think that was what we needed as a team," said Root.

"It is quite a settled environment.

"It's not been shaken up much in terms of selection, and the guys know what they need to do.

"I think it is more important that a few little messages here and there get across very clearly and (we) go out and enjoy the occasion."

It was a successful formula at the first time of asking.

As England seek to go 2-0 up at a venue where they have prevailed in six of their last seven Tests, Root reflected on a Lord's success which augurs well for his new era.

"I didn't expect to win inside four days, but that's testament to the way the guys played.

"Everyone took responsibility at some point throughout the game and made a contribution.

"It was great to see and gives us a lot of confidence moving into this week."

Sterner tests doubtless beckon, and he welcomes them.

"There is a little bit of me looking forward to that.

"I'm fully aware that last week was the perfect start, and there will be plenty of challenges.

"It will be interesting to see when that happens. It might well be this week, and we'll have to see what that brings and how I cope with it."