Joe Root and Ben Stokes will return to England’s failing slip cordon for the fourth Test against India – if indications from the squad’s practice sessions are to be believed.
England have dropped a number of chances in the slip cordon across the three Tests so far, with Alastair Cook at first, David Malan and Jos Buttler at second, and Keaton Jennings at third slip the key culprits.
India captain Virat Kohli has been been dropped off the bowling of James Anderson (by Malan at Edgbaston and Jennings at Trent Bridge) on the way to both of his centuries so far.
England assistant coach described the propensity to shell such opportunities as “soul destroying” during the third Test. “It’s when you come under pressure in a game situation that you want the technique to stand up,” he said. “There’s no hiding place. It’s not good enough.”
Throughout the series, pundits have questioned why Root and Stokes, two of England’s more proven catchers in the slip cordon, are not taking up what are crucial positions in an attack spearheaded by Anderson and Stuart Broad in seamer-friendly conditions.
Root likes to field elsewhere to help him concentrate on captaincy, while Stokes, who took that remarkable gully catch off Broad at Trent Bridge in 2015, prefers fielding in the ring, where he is a commanding presence. He has, however, remained England’s first choice slip fielder to spinners; his reluctance against quick bowlers could be something to do with a long-standing finger injury which makes one of the digits of his right hand slightly mis-shapen.
But England’s practice sessions ahead of the fourth Test at the Ageas Bowl had Buttler keeping wicket in place of Jonny Bairstow, with Cook at first, Root at second and Stokes at third, suggesting England have finally forced their more experienced catchers to re-take residence in the cordon.
While Stokes would have to move out of that position when bowling, his overs are likely to be more limited due to a knee niggle that has led to the inclusion of Moeen Ali as an extra bowling option.