England head coach Chris Silverwood backs flexible start times in final Pakistan Test

England head coach Chris Silverwood would have no qualms about bringing in flexible start times for the series-deciding third Test against Pakistan, with hopes rising that an agreement can be reached.

The sheer volume of cricket that was lost in the drawn second Test – equivalent to about three and a half days in all – has accelerated a rethink around the rigid policy of beginning at 11am.

While several other possible solutions to extending the amount of play possible in games affected by bad light and rain – such as brighter balls, improved lighting and even specialist glasses – are not immediate solutions, the idea of bringing forward the first ball to cover for delays could be imminent.

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Both teams would be willing, as would the host broadcasters, leaving agreements with global television partners who take a ‘world feed’ from the match as the last hurdle to clear. Increasingly, it seems they might provide a sympathetic ear given another mixed forecast.

Silverwood, for one, would be more than happy to be flexible if it helps prevent a repeat of last week’s frustrations.

“The earlier start time makes a lot of sense to me. What is the harm in starting at 10.30am?” he said. “In my opinion it would be a good idea. I know there’s chats around it and there will be no complaints from us if it happens. But I’ve had no official word it’ll happen.

“We’re all here anyway. We’re all on the ground, so it wouldn’t be very difficult to make it happen. To have both sides – to have everyone, really – in the bubble sat around was hard work at times. You feel for everyone involved including the viewers at home hoping to watch some cricket. I felt for everyone that we were just here sat around twiddling our thumbs.”

Stuart Broad took to Instagram to remind more than half a million followers that any administrative tweaks around the game would not have much impact unless it stopped raining.

Hopes of a meaningful outdoor practice in Southampton were scuppered on Wednesday by yet more downpours, with water pooling on the outfield and the pitch under cover. He posted a shot of the square shrouded in tarpaulins with a caption that read: “We could play out here if we turned the lights on brighter, used a really really really red waterproof ball, wore night vision goggles and bowled in wellies.”

The groundstaff at the Ageas Bowl are said to be hopeful of preparing a fresh pitch for the match but the possibility of playing on a used surface – a less than ideal situation for batsmen – remains on the table given the inclement weather.

England face yet another tricky selection poser as they sift through their well-stocked seam bowling stocks for the final time this summer. With nobody suffering from overwork in the second Test it would be straightforward to settle on the same attack which dismissed Pakistan for 236 in that match, with the tried and trusted trio of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes to the fore.

Yet there remains a nagging desire for extra pace, which brings Jofra Archer and Mark Wood – who has sat out four games in a row – back into the conversation. England are wary that their skills might come to the fore in the next Ashes series and will not want to keep them on the shelf too often before then.

“It’s very difficult. You look at what you need for the here and now and you look down the line for what we potentially need (in Australia),” said Silverwood. “It’s a difficult balance to get, but we do our best to strike that balance more often than not. There’s various factors we look at and pace is one of them: it’s pace, movement, bounce, left or right arm…all these things come into account.

“We’re trying to build an attack that can cover everything off. If you’ve got that group of players you can choose from them depending on who gives you the best opportunity to win the game in front of you.”


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