Joe Root backs Jack Leach and Rory Burns to bounce back in second Ashes Test

Spinner and opening batsman struggled in nine-wicket defeat to Australia in Brisbane

Captain Joe Root is backing spinner Jack Leach and opening batsman Rory Burns to bounce back from disappointing performances in the opening Ashes Test as England prepare to face Australia in the second match in Adelaide.

Root refused to rule out selecting Leach for Thursday's pink-ball Test in Adelaide, even though he went for 102 runs and took just one wicket from 13 overs during England's nine-wicket thrashing in Brisbane.

England controversially rested veteran quick bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad for the first Test but Root said the pair were "fit and ready to go" in Adelaide.

Leach's meagre returns in Brisbane would normally see him dropped to make room in the attack, but England will want a specialised slow bowler for Adelaide's traditionally spin-friendly wicket.

"We've obviously got some big decisions to make," Root told reporters in Adelaide. "I'm sure [Leach] will want to respond and he'll want to get back into the series and have an impact.

"Some of the grounds that we will be going to from this point onwards should offer a lot more for him and bring spin into it as well."

Root also offered support to opening batsman Burns, who fell to the first ball of the series in Brisbane and then dropped a crucial chance from David Warner.

"Rory is a very strong character, you can't doubt that side of his game," said Root, himself strongly criticised back in England after winning the toss in Brisbane and opting to bat first. "He'll come back in and want a response and want to put some big scores on the board."

Ben Stokes during a nets session at the Adelaide Oval. PA

England's hopes of clawing their way back into the series will be significantly boosted if Ben Stokes is able to find his best form, but the all-rounder struggled in Brisbane his first competitive match in six months after a break to deal with a finger injury and mental health issues while appearing to carry a knee injury during the opening Test.

However, Stokes dismissed concerns a knee injury could keep him out of the second Test and insisted he is ready for the Adelaide contest.

"People will have seen me rubbing my knee from time to time when I was in the field, but rest assured I'm fine," Stokes wrote in a column for the Daily Mirror. "It is an old injury that flares up every now and again, but I know how to manage it."

Australia have their own fitness concerns ahead of the second Test, with pace bowler Josh Hazlewood ruled out of the second because of a side strain he sustained in Brisbane.

Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser, who played a tour game for Australia A against the England Lions last week, are in Australia’s squad as pace cover.

Meanwhile, Australian first Test centurion Travis Head insists Leach could still have a part to play in the second Test. Head was named player of the match for his 152 and helped inflict the damage to Leach’s figures by smashing him for four fours and a six.

Adelaide local Head, though, argues there is always plenty of encouragement for the slow bowlers on his home pitch. “There’s a huge role [for spin], we’ve seen it here for a long period of time,” he said.

“Lloyd Pope for South Australia has spun the ball and I have spun the ball every now and then, which is rare!

“Whenever we played Nathan Lyon here for New South Wales he’s always been near impossible to hit with the bounce and turn he can get from this wicket and the patchiness of the grass.

“He [Leach] is definitely going to have opportunities throughout this series … this wicket is going to be one, it’s probably going to be patchy and probably spin.

“There definitely was a plan to put him under pressure [in Brisbane]. It wasn’t take him down like we did, it just worked out that way.”

Updated: December 14th 2021, 10:58 AM