While Pope acknowledged the comparisons with Ian Bell – it was Andrew Strauss who first mentioned it to him – he insisted they are accidental. But since his first spell in the side, when his expansive off-side play could leave him looking loose at times, he looks even more like Bell now: more compact; more disciplined outside off stump; more prepared to be patient and make the bowlers come to him. In short, a player who has learned to harness his talent.
“I think Bell is an amazing player and I used to love watching him bat but it’s not been anything that I’ve tried to emulate,” Pope said. “But it’s a big compliment because he is a pretty class player to watch. I’ve seen that a lot on social media. He was an amazing player and I loved watching him play.”
His favourite players were, instead, keeper-batsmen such as MS Dhoni and Adam Gilchrist and he has not given up hopes of fulfilling a role as keeper in the years ahead.
“I still want to keep that going in my game,” he said. “I definitely will be practising my keeping. I’m still the second keeper at Surrey. It’s only going to be a positive if I can keep nailing that side of my game, but I’m also more than happy playing as a batter as well.”
With a youthful look to the side, it is probably even more important that the more experienced players provide leadership. And Pope said Ben Stokes had taken him under his wing and demonstrated the fitness levels required to excel at this level.
“In New Zealand I realised what was needed,” he said. “I’d go under Stokes’ wing a little bit and, after the warm-up games, we’d run back to the hotel and do a running session the day before the games.
“If you can get into those good habits, if you control everything in your power to make sure you are as fit as you can be and you’re training as well as you can, then hopefully good things will happen. It’s good to see the way these guys go about it. Hopefully I can learn from that and keep following in their footsteps.”
England’s players were given a day off on Tuesday. While some, including Pope, went on safari, others played golf. Only Root, accompanied by batting coach Graham Thopre, took to the nets where he had a long session.
*The previous occasion was at Leeds in 1993, when Australia won by an innings