England confident weary bowlers will be ready for Lord’s


England hope that a week’s gap between the first and second Ashes Tests will enable their bowling attack time to recover ahead of back-to-back fixtures at Lord’s and Headingley, following a heavy workload at Edgbaston this week.

The second men’s Test starts on June 28 at Lord’s and England are only expected to train twice before then, giving their bowlers time to recharge after spending 208.4 overs in the field during their two-wicket defeat to Australia in Birmingham.

“Seven days is actually quite a long time to give everyone a good rest,” Ben Stokes, England’s captain, said. “We’ll meet up again in three or four days’ time I think, and we’ll assess how everyone’s going and we’ll have to make a decision from there.”

There is particular concern around Moeen Ali‘s spinning finger, which he cut open on the second day of the first Test on his return to red-ball cricket following a 21-month absence. Moeen was clearly struggling to grip the ball and only bowled seven overs on the final day – precisely the moment when Stokes would have hoped to lean heavily on his primary spinner.

“I told Mo to tell me if his finger was sore, and I’d sensed that it was even before that,” Stokes said. “For him to come back into his first Test match and operate in the way that he did and really put himself through the pain barrier for the team [was great].

“You could see what it meant to him going out to play for England again with a huge smile on his face. I selected him for his match-winning moments. He had a few of them with the ball and nearly got us over the line… [The break] gives Mo a good chance for his finger to heal up.”

England are yet to decide if they will call up another spinner as cover for Moeen, with Rehan Ahmed, Liam Dawson and Will Jacks among the front-runners if they decide to do so. They may also consider fielding a four-man seam attack at Lord’s, not least after Joe Root‘s tidy returns with his offbreaks across the first Test.

Stokes marked Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson out for putting in “incredible” shifts on the last evening but James Anderson, for so long the leader of England’s attack, had an off-game. He returned match figures of 1 for 109 and was overlooked when England took the second new ball in the final stages of the Test.

Speaking before play started on Tuesday, Anderson admitted to Sky Sports that he was “still searching for a bit of rhythm” on his return from a groin niggle that kept him out for over a month, including England’s 10-wicket win over Ireland.

“It’s been difficult,” Anderson added. “I feel like I do need a bit of game time to get back into it and it has been five-six weeks since I last played. I feel like I’ve bowled OK but I definitely feel like there’s more there.”

Mark Wood, overlooked for the first Test, will come into contention at Lord’s.

Stokes himself bowled seven overs in each innings and took two vital wickets, trapping Steven Smith lbw in the first innings and inducing a chop-on from Usman Khawaja in the second with a leg cutter. He hardly celebrated Khawaja’s dismissal – “I was absolutely flying on caffeine,” he explained – but said he saw his bowling workload as “a massive boost”.

“I’ve put my body through more than it’s actually been through over the last year, which is obviously great signs for myself and another confidence boost for me,” Stokes said. “Getting through that, knowing we’ve still got four games coming up has given me a massive boost.

“I can’t remember the last time I’ve sort of been able to continually bowl. I was just really happy that I was able to get a good long spell in, and I just love being in that situation. I love bowling long spells, especially when the game’s on the line.”

He explained that he had tried to “keep myself pretty level” after dismissing Khawaja, explaining that the match “wasn’t done”. Stokes said: “If you looked back two or three ago, it would have been a big celebration and all that kind of stuff.

“I just sort of sensed that was my time in the game to get myself on. It was obviously a big wicket to get, but the game wasn’t done and I just had to try really hard to keep myself level – because I was flying high on caffeine.”

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