England will make a late decision on Ben Stokes’ fitness before deciding on their final XI for the first Test against Pakistan.
Stokes has been managing a quad injury for the past couple of weeks and, although he is certain to take the field at Emirates Old Trafford on Wednesday, it is not yet known how much of a role he can be expected to play with the ball.
He was selected as a specialist batsman in the previous Test against the West Indies, but England had to drop batsman Zak Crawley to make room for an extra bowler.
Stokes put in a good show at nets on Monday but rain in Manchester curtailed his eve-of-match workout.
“We still need to know a bit more about where Ben is at,” said captain Joe Root.
“Because of the weather he wasn’t able to bowl outside so we’ll probably wait on that tonight and make a decision in the morning.
“Ben being able to do everything he can do is huge for this team and it shows how pivotal he is, but if he’s not fit there are a number of ways we can go.”
Root admitted gauging Stokes’ physical condition accurately was a tricky business given his desire to give everything, but believes the right call will be made.
“It’s a bit like telling him after nine overs on the bounce not to bowl and trying to take the ball out of his hand, it’s difficult,” he said.
“He’s so committed to the team and the cause that he will always put his body on the line. I suppose the more he’s played, the older he’s got, the maturer he’s got, he has got better at understanding that there are limitations to what he can do sometimes, even though those limitations are probably further for him than for other players.”
If Stokes was fit to bowl, it would leave Root with an even bigger dilemma in terms of his bowlers – possibly going in without a spinner or being forced to choose between James Anderson and the in-form Chris Woakes.
“I couldn’t be happier to have so many headaches,” he insisted. “To have such strength in depth is really pleasing and long may it continue.”