Sunday 18 August 2019

Root rides to rescue as he moves up England's order

England's Joe Root. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters
England's Joe Root. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters

Nick Hoult

England Test captain Joe Root will bat at No 3 in the Ashes after offering to move up the order to solve the team's growing batting crisis.

Root approached the England management with the idea after the win against Ireland last week in which his side were bowled out in a session on day one for just 85.

Root prefers to bat at four and has resisted attempts to persuade him to move permanently up the order in the past from his favourite position.

But he has realised an inexperienced top three of Rory Burns, Jason Roy and Joe Denly, who boast just 11 Test caps between them, could be easy pickings for Australia's vaunted pace attack when the first Test starts at Edgbaston on Thursday.

Denly batted at three against Ireland, but will swap with Root while Roy and Burns continue to open. England recognise that in the long term Roy is likely to move into the middle order but, having picked him as an opener against Ireland, believe he deserves to be given a run in that position.

Effective Root averages 40 at three and made his highest Test score of 254 against Pakistan in 2016 in that position. The management have often stated publicly they believe it to be his most effective position for the team, but Root has never looked at home there. Since becoming captain, he has said he likes the extra time batting at four gives him to switch off mentally from deciding tactics in the field.

Root moved back up to No 3 at the start of last summer against India, feeling he had to take on the responsibility after losing five out of seven Tests the previous winter in Australia and New Zealand. But it was a short-lived experiment.

In the fourth Test he batted at three in the first innings, but four in the second, with Moeen Ali promoted to three. By the final Test of the summer at the Oval he had reverted to four again and scored a century in the second innings, his first hundred for more than a year.

Since then, England have used four players at No 3 in just seven Tests with none able to hold down the position. Moeen played two Tests, but was shifted back down the order after making nought and three in Galle; Ben Stokes was trialled at three for one game in Kandy (Keaton Jennings batted three in the second innings); then Jonny Bairstow had a crack at the position, starting with a century in Colombo before fading in the West Indies.

He was dropped back to seven and restored as keeper in St Lucia, where Denly made his debut at three and stayed there for the Test against Ireland. Root batting at three will immediately make England's top order look secure.

James Anderson was among three players (Stuart Broad and Jos Buttler were the other two) who attended an optional net session at Edgbaston yesterday.

Anderson took a big step towards proving his fitness for the first Ashes Test, bowling six overs in the nets wearing a compression sock on the right calf muscle he tore playing for Lancashire last month, an injury that ruled him out of the Ireland Test.

England appear satisfied he is ready to play this week, barring any late breakdown.

Anderson's return leaves the management with a decision to make over Jofra Archer. He bowled in the nets at Hove yesterday and played a T20 for Sussex at the end of last week but England will want to see him at first hand over the next 48 hours before deciding whether to risk him in the first Test or to hold him back for the second match of the series at Lord's. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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