73, 20 not out, 4, 0, 10, 45, 29, 40, 71, 104, 28, 30, 5, 6, ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY!!!!!!! – eight test matches fifteen innings, these are the test scores of the prodigious Joe Root. A young man who is only 22 (looks like he is 12 mind) but already he is being touted as a future England batting legend. He is currently playing for an England team that is dominating Australia in the Ashes and has just produced his first significant innings of the series at Lords and more importantly his first one as an opener.
After scoring a mountain load of runs for Yorkshire and then impressing for the England Lions, Root was called up to the England squad for their tour of India in late 2012 at just 21 years of age. Nick Compton got the nod ahead of him to open the batting in that series and he had to wait until the 4th test to make his debut , scoring an impressive 73 batting at number 6, his 20 not out in the second innings helped England draw the test and win series 1-2. He continued lower down the order through the New Zealand tours home and away, making respectable contributions and his maiden test century was achieved at his spiritual home of Headingley against New Zealand in May of this year. However it was the trials and tribulations of the man who beat him to replace Andrew Strauss as opener, Nick Compton (39 runs in 4 innings against New Zealand in the home series being seen as a poor return – he had scored two centuries over in New Zealand) that were putting Joe Root in the headlines and whether he should be moved up the order to open in the Ashes.
The answer was given when the ECB dropped Nick Compton from England’s warm up game against Essex – Root pushed up to open with his Yorkshire team mate Jonny Bairstow filling in at number 6. Compton essentially dropped. Basically with 5 Ashes tests in our summer and 5 more down under at the end of the year the ECB were putting all their eggs in the Joe Root basket – a gamble in my opinion as he looked very impressive lower down the order, with a softer ball, but now he would be up there straight away – hard ball and top class bowlers to face – how would he fare???????
Initially he struggled scores of 30 and 5 at Trent Bridge, then out for 6 in the first innings at Lords (all good batting tracks). Opening in test cricket is a completely different ball game, than doing so in County Cricket and if it was not for some poor wicket keeping he would have been out for single figures in the second innings at Lords. However that reprieve was costly for the Australians, but may have been the break Joe Root needed – he scored 180 (his first significant contribution of this series) and maybe saved the ECB a decision before the third test at Old Trafford.
In my opinion Root has struggled on occasion in his new position – facing the highest class of bowlers with a shiny new ball in a test match is so different to facing a 20- 60 over old ball batting at number 6. It has taken him time to get used to the change and despite his magnificent score at Lords he still has things to learn as a test match opener. The good thing is that Root is a man who will learn from each innings and will have realised he should have been out for minimal in the second innings but then capitalised big style – taking full advantage. With his ‘daddy century’ fresh in his mind the selectors will allow him to bed in, with Root himself having the knowledge that a poor score may not mean he is about to be dropped.
So the plan now has to be to not rest on his laurels, there is a 10 day break between the second and third tests and when Root is facing his first ball at Old Trafford he will need to be fully concentrated – focusing on his techniques and keeping the Aussie’s out and trying to anchor the innings just like at Lords. Joe Root has a fantastic future in front of him – a precocious talent – but good old fashioned hard work is required to reach the top especially as come November and December he will need to perform well as an opener on those hard bouncy pitches in Australia. Let me know what you think??????? Am I being a bit harsh with my constructive criticism – all comments gratefully received.