England skipper Joe Root has urged rookie opener Mark Stoneman to use the first day-night Test to be held in this country to “set the world alight” and reserve his seat on the plane to Australia this winter.
The first Test against West Indies at Edgbaston, which starts on Thursday, will feature a pink ball and a later start time of 2pm, something which seamer Stuart Broad has described as “a step into the unknown”.
But alongside the intrigue of the day-night concept is the first of three vital matches for England as debutants and run-shy players bid to nail down positions for the Ashes.
The spotlight will shine most glaringly on Stoneman, who is set to make his England debut and become former skipper Alastair Cook’s 12th opening partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in 2012.
“Ideally you want someone to come in and set the world alight and their career move forward from there,” said Root of Stoneman. “I’d like to think he would get a very good opportunity and some good game time with England.
“He’s got a huge amount of runs under his belt, this season in particular, and in previous seasons as well. He’s got a well-rounded game, he’s a bit more experienced having played a lot of county cricket and I’m excited to see him hopefully take his opportunity.
“This is a great opportunity for him to go out and show everyone how good a player he is.”
West Indies, who have lost their last five Test series in England, head into the three-match tussle with an inexperienced squad, although the day-night distraction – the fifth of its kind worldwide – has left Root wary.
“There are slightly different challenges and it might throw up a different rhythm to the game,” added Root.
“But I think it’s important not to have too many theories and we react to what’s thrown up in front of us and make sure that, if things do start to happen slightly differently to normal, we respond to that very quickly and make sure we win those sessions.
“It looks like there are going to be some fantastic crowds. I think it’s been sold out for the first three days, so hopefully it’s a huge success and it can widen the audience of Test cricket.”
Aside from Stoneman, Tom Westley is still new to international cricket and Dawid Malan has so far failed to fire batting at No5, scoring just 35 runs in his four Test innings to date.
“Of course you want it to be settled,” said Root. “You never want to go into any series with the guys out of form or under pressure but that’s one of the challenges of Test cricket and generally as a side we’ve responded quite well to that in the past.”
Middlesex seamer Toby Roland-Jones has retained his place in the England side despite the return from injury of Chris Woakes, while 20-year-old leg-spinner Mason Crane will have to wait for his Test debut.