England batsman Joe Root has hit back at Pakistani suggestions that his move to No3 will weaken the hosts’ middle order in the first Investec Test at Lord’s, which starts on Thursday.
Root’s promotion comes after Nick Compton opted to take an extended break from his struggles with the bat, while all-rounder Ben Stokes is also absent having been deemed unfit by selectors.
That means Gary Ballance, who has not played a Test since being dropped during last year’s Ashes is set to to return to the side at No4 or No5, with James Vince taking the other slot.
Pakistan paceman Wahab Riaz portrayed England’s middle order as a potential pressure point on Tuesday, but Root rejected the notion that they were a work in progress.
“I think that’s probably harsh,” he said. “Someone like Jonny Bairstow would consider himself a middle-order batsman, and he has taken his game to another level.
“This series is a great opportunity for guys to stand up and really put some strong performances in, guys like James Vince who will really be looking forward to getting back out playing red-ball cricket again.
"He’s got a little bit of experience under his belt and will gain confidence from that.”
Wahab, who boasted earlier this week that Pakistan had devised a plan to ambush Root, said that England could crumble if the tourists took the wickets of him and captain Alastair Cook.
“They have lost a few places in the middle order,” he said. “They are not going to be that experienced, so it will be a struggle for England. We will make sure we get Cook and Root out so we can put pressure on the middle order.”
Wahab also insisted Pakistan would ignore the focus on Mohammad Amir’s return to Lord’s for his first Test since incurring a prison sentence and five-year ban by deliberately bowling no-balls at the same venue.
“It doesn’t matter what people think and we are not here to answer what people think. We are here to play good, competitive cricket against and England team who are very good in home conditions,” he said.
“What happened has gone now so the best thing is that [Amir] can perform well. I want him to take five wickets in this Test to get his image back, which has been spoiled.”