England v West Indies: Ashes places up for grabs - Joe Root

By Stephan ShemiltBBC Sport
Ashes places up for grabs - Joe Root
First Investec Test: England v West Indies
Venue: Edgbaston Dates: 17-21 August Start: 14:00 BST
Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, BBC Radio 4 LW & online; in-play highlights & live text commentary on BBC Sport website & app

Ashes opportunities will be up for grabs when the first Test against West Indies begins at Edgbaston on Thursday, says England captain Joe Root.

Opener Mark Stoneman will make his debut, while Tom Westley and Dawid Malan will look to cement places at numbers three and five respectively.

"It's an opportunity for the guys in this series to stamp their mark on the Test team," said Root.

"It's an exciting place for us as a team.

"If lads can take their chances, that will stand us in good stead going forward."

The three matches against West Indies, beginning with the first day-night Test in this country, are England's last assignment in the longest form of the game before they defend the Ashes in Australia this winter.

Left-hander Stoneman, who replaces Keaton Jennings, will become the 12th man to partner Alastair Cook at the top of the order since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012.

The Surrey man is the second-highest runscorer in County Championship Division One this season and, at 30, becomes the oldest England batsman to make his debut in a home Test since Steve James in 1998.

"He has gone about his business very well over the past few days," Root told BBC Sport. "He's desperate to prove how good a player he is."

Pace bowler Toby Roland-Jones keeps his place in the side, ahead of Chris Woakes, who Root says is not fully ready to play a Test after suffering a side strain in June.

Uncapped leg-spinner Mason Crane also misses out.

England take step into the unknown

Chris Woakes: Pink ball 'a little bit unknown'

England will have to get used to the day-night conditions and the pink ball over the next year - the second Ashes Test in Adelaide will be played under lights, as will a Test in New Zealand in the series that follows.

Their players were released to play in a round of day-night County Championship fixtures in June and they trained under lights in Birmingham on Monday.

There have been concerns about how the pink ball might behave, with the suggestion being that it offers exaggerated movement while it is new, only to get softer, harder to both move and hit, when it gets older.

Root, though, says he has not witnessed any great differences and that his side will approach this match in the same way as a traditional Test.

"If we'd have used a red ball in training, it would have been very similar. It might be slightly different when the lights come on," said the 26-year-old.

"Ultimately, it's still the same game and you still have to adapt to the conditions. If we do that well we should be in a good position come the end of it."

Root not looking past the Windies

England start as huge favourites to earn a resounding series victory - West Indies have not won a series away from home since 2012 and have not won a Test in England for 17 years.

Root, though, says England will not look past the Windies, even with the Ashes looming on the horizon.

England v West Indies Test series schedule
First Test: 17-21 August, Edgbaston (d/n)
Second Test: 25-29 August, Headingley
Third Test: 7-11 September, Lord's

"I've never played an easy game of Test cricket," said the Yorkshire batsman. "They have some talented players mixed with guys who have been around a bit.

"We will have to play well to beat them. We are favourites, but Test cricket never easy. It will be hard work and we'll have to play well to come out on top."

Holder targets series win

We have an understanding of day-night Test cricket - West Indies coach Stuart Law

As has been the case for some time, West Indies are without a number of their established global stars because of a dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board over selection for the national team.

An entire XI of players of the calibre to play Test cricket are not even in the squad, with the likes of Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne and Darren Bravo, Sunil Narine and Darren Sammy all absent.

Most are back at home playing in the Caribbean Premier League T20 competition.

Pace bowling looks to be their strength in the shape of Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph and captain Jason Holder.

Runs will be a concern, but Roston Chase averages 48 from his first 10 Tests, with three centuries.

"We're obviously huge underdogs," said Holder. "England are a very good team and a number of their players are in good form.

"We have guys who are showing that they can compete at this level. We have done well in the warm-ups games and hope that transcends into the Tests."

Asked what he would consider to be a success, Holder replied: "A series win."

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