Skipper Root confident of 'banging out a hundred' in Ashes

Published: 12:27 PM, 24 Dec, 2021
Skipper Root confident of 'banging out a hundred' in Ashes
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Joe Root has backed himself to "bang out a hundred" as England face a must-win Boxing Day Test in Melbourne and says he expects a response from his team after successive Ashes defeats.

The England captain has never reached three figures in Australia but he went close in the nine wicket-defeat in the first Test in Brisbane (89) before hitting 62 in Adelaide, when they crashed by 275 runs.

So far, he and Dawid Malan are the only English players to make half-centuries and know they need to convert their good starts into big scores to give the team any hope of clawing back into the five-Test series.

"I feel in a really good place with my batting," Root, who has enjoyed a record-breaking 2021, told English media.

"I feel confident I can, in these next three games, bang out a hundred in these conditions. I know that's a brave thing to say but my conversion rate this year, it's not been an issue at all.

"I expect a response from our players and I would like to bring a nice Christmas present home for everyone who stays up."

Root became just the fourth player in history -- and first since 2008 -- to plunder 1,600 Test runs in a calendar year during the Adelaide Test, but a maiden century in Australia has always eluded him.

The visitors have never needed their skipper more -- they must beat Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to keep alive their hopes of winning the series.

Malan admitted on Thursday there had been frank discussions after Adelaide, where a first-innings batting collapse coupled with poor bowling and fielding cost England the match, with Root not holding back.

"I'll always try to look at things with a level, pragmatic approach," said the captain, who has been criticised by English media for some of his decisions in Australia.

"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. I just hope it's not too late.

"There is plenty of motivation for the group and we are doing everything we can to make sure it is 2-1 by the time we leave here (Melbourne)."

England look to bounce back

England head into the Boxing Day Test against Australia on Sunday knowing they must fix the mistakes that have blighted their tour or lose the Ashes series.

After a nine-wicket thumping in Brisbane and then crashing by 275 runs in Adelaide, Joe Root's team must win at Melbourne Cricket Ground to keep their slim Ashes hopes alive.

A boisterous crowd of about 70,000 is expected on the opening day of the Test.

As holders, Australia need only to avoid defeat to retain the urn.

The omens are not good for England -- the only instance of a team coming from 2-0 down to win the Ashes was Donald Bradman's Australia back in 1936-37. 

In the first two Tests the tourists' batting, bowling and fielding were sub-standard and Root knows they must improve quickly.

"I am convinced we have what we need to win Test matches over here but we are not going to if we keep missing chances and don't give ourselves an opportunity to get into the Test match with the bat," he said.

Root blasted the side after Adelaide for "making the same mistakes", highlighted by a first-innings batting collapse and his bowlers hitting the wrong lengths, allowing Australia to build a big score.

But he also came in for sharp criticism himself, despite performing well with the bat and ball.

"What is the opposite definition of excellent leadership? There's a good chance it can be summed up by Joe Root's captaincy," ex-Australia skipper Ian Chappell said.

Another former captain, Ricky Ponting, also chipped in, blasting Root for not doing more to correct the bowling problems while the match was under way.

"If you can't influence your bowlers on what length to bowl, what are you doing on the field?" he said.

To rub salt in Root's wounds, Australian number three Marnus Labuschagne overtook him to become the world's number one Test batsman after his first-innings Adelaide century.

- Australia riding high -

English media reports suggest the visitors could make up to four changes with opener Zak Crawley potentially in for either Rory Burns or Haseeb Hameed and Jonny Bairstow taking over from Ollie Pope.

They are also likely to mix up the bowling unit again with speedster Mark Wood tipped to return, along with off-spinner Jack Leach, after England blundered by dropping him for Adelaide.

That would mean either Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson or star quicks Jimmy Anderson or Stuart Broad missing out.

Coach Chris Silverwood is also under increasing pressure.

"I do believe I can turn it around," he told British media this week.

"We had a good talk in the dressing room, which was healthy and needed. I think there are some lessons to be learned. We have to be better -- it's as simple as that."

In contrast, Australia are riding high.

All of their top six made 50s in Adelaide, bar struggling opener Marcus Harris, while the bowling group performed admirably despite missing captain Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.

Despite making just 38 from four innings so far, coach Justin Langer backed Harris to come good on his home ground in Melbourne in an unchanged batting line-up.

"He'll play in the Test, no worries about that," Langer said. "For him and for us we're hoping he plays well and gets a good partnership with Davey Warner in this Boxing Day Test match."

Cummins missed Adelaide after being a close contact of a Covid positive case, but he is set to return, while Mitchell Starc has a rib concern but should be fit.

There is less certainty around Hazlewood as he continues to recover from a side strain, while the fitness of Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser is being assessed.

That could open the door to a shock debut for experienced right-armer Scott Boland on his home ground after he was called into the squad as injury cover.


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