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‘Finding a way to win’ was crucial for England preparations

Joe Root believes that England are building momentum heading into a landmark season of international cricket.

Root, who combined with Man of the Match Eoin Morgan for a 65-run partnership which guided England to victory in a high-pressure T20 against Pakistan in Cardiff on Sunday, said there was a sense the summer had officially begun once the squad had gathered for a camp the previous weekend, also in Cardiff.

“It was nice to see everyone at the camp, even though there are a few injuries around, it’s exciting to see the crux of the squad together and to start the journey of the summer,” Root said. “And for us to find a way of winning two games. I know this is a different format but the majority of the squad will be around for the 50-over stuff.

“It was a great chance for us to start going in the right direction, to get some momentum going into the one-day series. It’s really pleasing to be two from two and hopefully now carry that forward throughout those five games.”

While Root managed just 7 and Morgan a duck in Friday’s ODI win against Ireland, Root’s 47 off 42 deliveries was pivotal against Pakistan. Morgan then blasted 57 off just 29 to snatch a victory over the world’s No.1 T20 side by seven wickets, with just four balls remaining. A neat cameo by Joe Denly, who scored an unbeaten 20 off 12 once Root was dismissed, was also encouraging for the hosts going into the five-match ODI series against Pakistan starting on Wednesday.

“What this game did is provide a huge opportunity for guys who haven’t played a huge amount for England, either before or in recent times,” Root said. “It was really important that those guys got something out of it. It’s about them trying to take that opportunity and us finding a way of winning without a normal-looking T20 side, and I thought it was a fantastic effort from the group to win in the manner that we did.”

Also among those looking to make the most of their opportunities, was Jofra Archer, who was the pick of the England bowlers with 2 for 29 against Pakistan after a respectable return of 1 for 40 on his international debut two days earlier.

“You could see the value of what he could bring to a side, that extra bit of zip,” Root said of Archer’s latest outing. “He makes things happen, he is someone that wants to get into the game and make things happen, which is a brilliant quality to have on this stage. It will be interesting to see how he goes in the next few games.”

First-choice opener Jason Roy continues to be monitored after being troubled by back spasms in recent weeks, while a number of other front-line England players who have been rested would be expected to return during the ODIs against Pakistan, meaning competition for World Cup spots intensifies before the squad is finalised on May 23.

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Liam Plunkett and Tom Curran – among the players under most pressure to make way for Archer should he be included – did their causes no harm by taking seven wickets between them against Ireland. Wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Foakes, on the other hand, is further down the list despite top scoring with 61 not out in a Man-of-the-Match performance against Ireland.

More likely to squeeze his way in, particularly if Roy remains under a cloud, is James Vince, who played attractive, if unspectacular, knocks in the first two matches of this World Cup warm-up. Vince has remodelled himself as an opener on the advice of Root and selector Ed Smith, with a view to breaking back into the England side for the Ashes, if not before. Roy’s injury and the omission of Alex Hales, combined with some excellent form for Hampshire, have delivered Vince’s chance even sooner than perhaps he expected.

As Test captain, Root admitted he was already looking ahead to the Ashes, for which he said Archer was under consideration, along with many others within and outside the current England set-up.

“I am looking at everyone with an eye on the Ashes, anyone that is in the shake-up,” Root said. “I’ll try and not be too emotional about it and make sure that my main focus is on preparing well and being ready for the World Cup. Subconsciously you are always looking at county cricket, around the squad, who is in good form, who could potentially be a good option for the Ashes squad.”

Not only has playing matches helped the squad look ahead, Root said it had also allowed them to put the drama of Hales’ axing for recreational drug use behind them.

“To be honest, it’s just been nice to get back playing cricket,” Root said. “It’s felt a long time since that West Indies tour finished and with the enormity of this summer, it’s nice to get it going and playing. I know they will come round quite quickly now, these five games, so we just want to start playing and focusing on that now.”

Article source: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/1183458.html?CMP=OTC-RSS

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