Jofra Archer will have to wait for his Test debut. Picture: Getty Images
Jofra Archer will have to wait for his Test debut. Picture: Getty Images

Poms save excitement machine for later in series

JOFRA Archer has been sidelined from England's team for the Ashes opener, with Joe Root confirming Jimmy Anderson and Chris Woakes have been preferred.

Archer last month helped England to a historic World Cup victory, and having recovered from a side strain appeared in line to make his Test debut in the toughest possible arena.

But that will have to wait after the Barbados-born quick was snubbed when England named their side on the eve of the Edgbaston Test.

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Instead it will once again be Anderson, England's all-time leading wicket-taker, who will spearhead the attack under overcast skies in Birmingham.

Anderson was himself under a serious injury cloud, having suffered a calf injury at the start of July, but once again looms as a key figure - having long been Australia's Ashes nemesis on England soil.

Indeed, Root believes his swing king is getting better with age.

Veteran Jimmy Anderson is still firing at 37. Picture: Getty Images
Veteran Jimmy Anderson is still firing at 37. Picture: Getty Images

"He is someone that genuinely continues to improve - you just have to look at his numbers in the last couple of years," Root said.

"Granted, conditions have suited him but he's absolutely made the most of it.

"He had his best tour of Australia as well, he continues to find ways of taking wickets and building pressure on any given surface and he's a great leader of our attack."

Which is not to say that Archer won't play a significant role in this series.

"We'll make sure he's got his workloads up and ready to go for later on in the series if he needs to make an impact," Root said.

Also overlooked from England's 14-man squad were seam-bowling all-rounder Sam Curran and batsman Olly Stone, while Root will move up to No.3 in the batting order - declaring he's ready to embrace the extra responsibility.

"It gives an opportunity to lead from the front," Root said when asked about the promotion.

"I also feel now I'm in a place where I've got my head around dealing with the captaincy and my batting, being able to separate the two."

But he's not concerned about the rest of England's flimsy top-order, backing inexperienced openers Rory Burns and Jason Roy to attack Australia's fast bowlers head on.

Jason Roy will open with Rory Burns.
Jason Roy will open with Rory Burns.

"I think it's a very exciting top order," he said.

"I want Jason to go out and play in his own way, his own manner. Naturally he's got the ability to put any bowler under pressure at any given time. That's very exciting."

Meanwhile, Root is looking forward to having "natural leader" Ben Stokes back alongside him as his Test deputy.

The pair have been friends since their days playing youth cricket, with Root lobbying for Stokes's return to a position the all-rounder held until he was involved in a street brawl in Bristol in 2017.

Stokes missed five months of international cricket, including England's 4-0 Ashes series loss in Australia under Root, before being cleared of affray in a court case in August 2018.

Ben Stokes is back as vice-captain. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS
Ben Stokes is back as vice-captain. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS

But the 28-year-old was one of the stars of England's triumphant World Cup campaign earlier this season and Root, also involved in that success, is eager to have Stokes back as his Test vice-captain after Jos Buttler took over the role.

"I have asked for a long time (to have Stokes back as vice-captain) but he was made available at the end of the World Cup," Root said.

"It is fantastic to have Ben back, not just playing and playing back somewhere near his best - it has been coming a long time.

"The way he stepped up in big moments in that World Cup was just him down to a tee. It is what he does - he responds well to responsibility and to the big moments."

England team for first Ashes Test: Rory Burns, Jason Roy, Joe Root (capt), Joe Denly, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (wkt), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.