JOE ROOT will step up to No 3 in The Ashes to cure England’s batting woes.
The skipper is taking it upon himself to end the early collapses that threaten his side’s chances against Australia.
The switch means Kent’s Joe Denly will drop to No 4 with Jason Roy and Rory Burns continuing as opening batsmen.
England were also given an Ashes boost yesterday when swing king Jimmy Anderson declared himself fit for the First Test at Edgbaston on Thursday.
Anderson bowled six overs flat-out in the nets and felt no problems with the right calf muscle he tore while playing for Lancashire on July 2.
England’s greatest bowler said as he finished practice: “It feels good — I’m ready to go.”
Jofra Archer is unlikely to be risked as he returns from a side strain, which means Anderson and Stuart Broad sharing the new ball and Chris Woakes as third seamer.
Head coach Trevor Bayliss has long believed Root should move up from No 4 to No 3, so he can influence the game rather than wait until England are two wickets down and already on the back foot.
There has been huge speculation over the past 72 hours and now Root has made his move.
It is understood the skipper went to Bayliss and chief selector Ed Smith with the proposal.
England discussed dropping Roy down to No 4.
But it was felt that, after just one match as an opener in which he scored 72 in the second innings against Ireland, it would be too disruptive to make another change.
Instead, utility batsman Denly will bat at four. The change comes after one Test this summer in which England were bowled out by Ireland in a single session before winning by 143 runs.
It shows England are worried about the damage that could be inflicted with the new ball by Aussie fast bowlers such as Pat Cummins and James Pattinson.
In England’s nine most recent Tests, five different batsmen have gone in at No 3 — Root, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Denly.
Root has batted at No 3 from time to time — he scored 254 against Pakistan at Old Trafford in 2016 in the position — but normally with reluctance.
He prefers four because he feels he needs more time to prepare for batting after a stint in the field.
Meanwhile, Stokes has spoken for the first time since being re-instated as England Test vice-captain in place of Jos Buttler.
most read in cricket
Stokes lost the job after a street fight in 2017.
But he said: “I love having that responsibility and it’s something I thoroughly enjoy. I take pride in being vice-captain.
“I’m good friends with Joe and like to help him as much as possible.”