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Root Rescues England Again

Joe Root produced a classy 134 to spare England’s blushes on the opening day of the first Investec Ashes test match in Cardiff.

After a slight delay to the start of play for rain, the English openers Alastair Cook and Adam Lyth took to the field having won the toss and electing to bat.  But after just over an hour of play, the English were reduced to 43 for 3, with Lyth losing his Ashes debut wicket for 6, Cook making an unimpressive 20, and the out-of-form Ian Bell going for just 1 run.

It was at this point in proceedings that Joe Root, batting at five in the order, came out to join Gary Ballance, and the pair set about building a 153-run partnership which would survive through until late afternoon – though Root had to survive an early scare, being dropped behind by the busy Brad Haddin, off only his second ball faced.

Ballance’s 61, and the lively Ben Stokes’ 52 helped England to a respectable 343 for 7 by the close of play, and with Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad at the crease, the home team will be looking to continue to build a decent first-innings total.  But this might only serve to mask some very obvious concerns for the England team.

Alastair Cook is clearly not at his best.   The stylish England skipper has struggled to rediscover the impressive form which arguably peaked during the 2010 Ashes tour of Australia, where innings of 235, 148 and 189, and leading the team to a memorable series victory down under, confirmed his reputation as one of England’s all-time greats. But his knock of 105 in Bridgetown in the recent tour of the West Indies, brought to an end a near-two year wait for a century.   It is widely held that the Essex batsman’s best international days are behind him, and his form in the current Test Match could make or break his position as captain.

Cook has not been helped by the lack of support opening the batting.  Since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012, the England selectors have tried Nick Compton, Joe Root, Michael Carberry, Sam Robson and  Jonathan Trott alongside Cook at the top of the order, with varying levels of success.  The current incumbent, Adam Lyth has yet to impress, and though he will be given time, Cook’s form will continue to suffer as long as there is instability at the other end of the wicket.

Joe Root is undeniably a fantastic talent.  The 24-year-old Yorkshireman has taken to International cricket with consumate ease, notching 7 centuries in 28 Test Matches, and playing with a level of energy and competitiveness which has won admirers around the world.  But England cannot go on relying on Root to save every innings.  Pressure can impact negatively on the finest players, and England must ensure that the young batsman does not have to keep coming in at five to rescue lost causes.

There is also increased speculation that Root may be asked to take on the captaincy, should Cook be relieved of duties.  A look down the England team-sheet shows that there is a definite lack of captain material, but surely piling this responsibility on Root would have a devastating effect on the player’s confidence, especially in the unforgiving atmosphere of the Ashes.

The first day of the Ashes is always special.  The series looks set to produce the usual blend of fierce competition, excellent individual performances, and grinding team effort.  England must find a way to strengthen their top order batting, or the brilliance of Joe Root could fade under the relentless pressure of English expectation.

Billy Taylor
Twitter – @billytaylor1608


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Harry James
Harry James' love for sports began in his high school basketball days. Sadly, an injury meant he couldn't further his NBA dreams, but the hooper's loss is our gain as he then found journalism.

Harry James' love for sports began in his high school basketball days. Sadly, an injury meant he couldn't further his NBA dreams, but the hooper's loss is our gain as he then found journalism.

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