England on course to put faith in Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow for fifth Test

Joe Root is getting ready to put his faith in Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow as batsmen in the final Test despite their injuries.

Both men have to prove a certain level of fitness before Friday, and began with a net session on Wednesday that appeared to cause more problems for Haseeb Hameed than the duo.

Hameed was spotted nursing a sore chest and appeared to be struggling to breathe at one point alongside Zak Crawley in the net next door.

Hameed may well make way for Rory Burns in any case, but Root wants to give Stokes and Bairstow, with side and thumb injuries respectively, the most time he can to get right to play.

“We need to make sure they are physically in a place where they can get through five days of hard cricket,” said Root.

“They need to be in a position to play, get through the game and put in a performance as they did last week.

“It’s alright being fit to play but you’ve got to be fit to perform and that’s what we’ve got to work out.

“We can certainly pick Ben as a batter, Jonny too, but we have to see where they are at, what their bodies can handle.

“You have to trust the medical advice as well. Those guys work tirelessly to make sure we are in the best possible position to go and win games.

“There’s a lot to contend with over the next few days but not for the first time this tour.”

One thing that they appear to have sorted already though is that Sam Billings will make his debut behind the stumps in place of Jos Buttler.

Billings got down to work with keeping coach James Foster on the outfield and is set to become England Test player number 700 this week.

Root added: “When Sam is around the group he brings a lot of energy and he’s constantly smiling. It’s nice to have him here.

“He’s a great guy to have in the environment and I’m sure he’ll throw everything into his opportunity and get stuck in if it comes his way.”

Speaking on the outfield of the Blundstone Arena which also happens to be Tim Paine’s home ground for Tasmania and the Hobart Hurricanes, Root was not immune to the fact that the former Aussie captain would be missing out on an historic few days for the island.

Paine had long campaigned for an Ashes Test to be brought to Tasmania for the first time, but his sexting scandal has denied him the chance to appear as captain on his home turf.

“I’ve not had the opportunity to speak to Tim, but I hope he’s doing ok and things are moving on in his situation,

“Of course any player would love to play at their home ground and have that opportunity in a Test match, so it is disappointing for him and I suppose for all Hobart and Tasmania fans across the state.”

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