England captain Joe Root believes batting at four could be “quite a jump” for Ollie Pope but is confident the Surrey youngster will rise to the challenge in the second Test against India.
Pope has never batted in the top five in the Specsavers County Championship but will make his Test debut at Lord’s as a direct replacement for Middlesex left-hander Dawid Malan.
The 20-year-old has played only 15 first-class matches in his fledgling career but his 684 championship runs at an average of 85.5 this season thrust him into England contention.
Root confirmed Pope’s inclusion in the XI and said Essex seamer Jamie Porter would miss out.
However, conditions on Thursday morning will dictate whether spinner Moeen Ali or seamer Chris Woakes is drafted in to replace Ben Stokes, absent this week because of his ongoing court case in Bristol.
“We’ve got a 12. Jamie Porter is the unlucky one to miss out,” Root said. “With the surface as it is, having looked at it today, we’re going to leave it another 24 hours and then make a decision in the morning.
“Ollie will come in and bat at four. He’s obviously batted at six for Surrey this season – but having seen him play a little bit, and the way his game is set up, I think it’s very much transferable to bat at number four in Test cricket.
“I know that might be seen as quite a big jump. But he’s obviously an exciting talent and, with the guys around him, I think he fits nicely into that position in our team.”
Root spoke in glowing terms of a batsman who last winter was commended in a New South Wales parliamentary speech after a successful stint with Campbelltown-Camden in Sydney grade cricket.
“He’s very mature for a young man,” Root said.
“I can see that he thinks about the game a lot and has a very good understanding of where he’s at within his own game – which is a really good sign in a young man, coming into this environment. I hope that will stand him in really good stead.”
“I think he’s performed exceptionally well this season in County Championship cricket,” Root added.
“He’s played some very important knocks under pressure for Surrey, and he’s got a very good all-round game. That’s a very exciting prospect for such a young man, to have the ability to play in that manner.
“I’m looking forward to him, more than anything, just going out there and being himself – and playing exactly as he has done throughout this summer.”