England captain Joe Root ready to ‘bang out a hundred’ with Ashes on the line

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England captain Joe Root ready to ‘bang out a hundred’ with Ashes on the line
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  • Joe Root
    Joe Root
    English cricketer (born 1990)

Joe Root, the recently-deposed No1 Test batter in the world, believes that with the Ashes on the line, he is ready to “bang out a hundred” that would be his first on Australian soil.

Root’s record and method in Australia have been under scrutiny throughout this Ashes series. In 11 Tests Down Under, he averages a respectable 39, which is 11 lower than his career average of 50, and none of his 23 centuries have come here.

He has passed 50 eight times, including seven in his past seven Tests in Australia. At the end of a golden 2021 in which he has become just the fourth man to score 1,600 Test runs in a calendar year, Root started this series with a duck but has since twice fallen between 62 and 89.

“I’m confident I can in these next three games bang out a hundred in these conditions,” he said ahead of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

“I feel in a really good place with my batting. I know that’s a brave thing to say but that conversation rate, this year, it’s not been an issue at all. I feel like I have managed that well and an understanding of how I want to score my runs. There’s clarity there, I just need to put myself in those positions, just have the bit between my teeth, over my dead body.”

Marnus Labuschagne’s superb start to the series has seen him overtake Root as the ICC’s top-ranked men’s Test batter, and the England skipper admitted he would like to regain his crown.

“I’ve never been one for that but it would be nice to have it back for Christmas,” he smiled.

Root says he must tighten up outside off stump if he is to score his hundred, having been caught by the keeper or cordon in all four innings on tour. In the Melbourne nets on Thursday, he placed a yellow marker on the line of fourth stump to help prevent him nibbling at balls he need not.

“I feel in a really good place, I’m playing nicely still,” he said. “More than anything it’s managing the conditions. Look at three of the four dismissals I’ve had, they’ve been in that channel. So can I be a bit more disciplined?

“Playing in these conditions it doesn’t swing and it doesn’t seam as much, so you feel like you can hit the ball, you feel in control and that can lure you in, especially with that extra bit of bounce that can bring the nick.

“That’s what they have managed better than us, really. So it’s more about when I am playing the ball, or defending it. It’s balls I need to defend and it’s not playing balls in that channel where I’m not going to score runs off, where the only thing that can happen is create a chance for them.”

Joe Root prepares for his third Boxing Day Test (Getty Images)
Joe Root prepares for his third Boxing Day Test (Getty Images)

Leaving the ball better has been England’s major work-on this week. Immediately after the Adelaide Test, a brutal debrief was held in which batters’ dismissals were shown back – including many that showed uncertainty over what to leave and what to play. England have continually spoken about the performance of Labuschagne, who has left expertly on length.

Root admitted that he was angry with his players, as he expressed in impassioned post-match interviews, and “there was a lot of frustration” in the changing room.

“I did [get angry] at the end of the last game because of the situation we’re in and the manner in which we lost,” he said. “I’ll always try to look at things with a level, pragmatic approach but I don’t think you could after the way we’ve played those last two games. I expect a response from everyone this week.”

When asked if, as a usually relaxed character, he had to pick his moments to get angry, he said: “Yeah, I just hope it’s not too late.”

He continued: “Twice now we’ve got ourselves into a position, second innings in Brisbane, first innings in Adelaide, with decent partnerships between me and Mala, we needed to go on and we didn’t.

“Sometimes that can happen, but the first 20 balls, starting your innings, you’ve got to be disciplined, you’ve got to know how you’re going to get yourself in the game and we can’t afford to be losing 8 wickets for 70 or 80 runs.

“It is not good enough, it is not the level that an England Test team should be playing at. The guys know that and they’re very aware of that. Their work ethic is very good and you’ll have seen how guys practise and how long they bat for in the nets, but sometimes I think we can be smarter about what we are practising and how we are practising.

“And understanding that batting, in my opinion, it’s about making good decisions for long periods of time.”

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