December 7, 2021

Root: Winter tours will offer valuable Ashes insights

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England Test captain has made improvements to his batting suitable for all formats in the hope of winning back his T20 spot and sparking an upturn in his Test form that will help lead to a successful tour of Australia in next winter’s Ashes

Last Updated: 25/11/20 4:33pm

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England Test captain Joe Root says this winter’s Test tour of India will offer valuable insights into his side’s Ashes credentials.

England Test captain Joe Root says this winter’s Test tour of India will offer valuable insights into his side’s Ashes credentials.

Captain Joe Root says this winter’s tours of Sri Lanka and India will be a good measure of England’s Test credentials and aspirations ahead of next year’s Ashes in Australia.

Root led England to series wins over West Indies and Pakistan this summer and is pleased with the evolution of the team, which sits fourth in the world rankings behind Australia, New Zealand and India.

England will play two Tests in Sri Lanka in January, although the dates are yet to be confirmed, before heading to India as they continue their quest to become the No 1 side on the planet.

Root told Sky Sports that both tours will provide valuable indicators about his side’s chances of regaining the urn lost 4-1 in 2016-17 when they head back Down Under next November.

“The build-up [to the Ashes] starts really a year out,” said Root. “I know it’s going to be a huge series for the team and probably for me as a captain. I’m just really excited.

“I know we’re in a really good place currently. Can we make sure that we are in that same place in a year’s time walking out for that first Test match?

“We had great experiences and results last time out in Sri Lanka and that will give a number of players a huge amount of confidence going back there with some great memories.

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England Test captain Joe Root joined Mike Atherton and Nasser Hussain back in January to discuss decision-making and his evolution as skipper.

England Test captain Joe Root joined Mike Atherton and Nasser Hussain back in January to discuss decision-making and his evolution as skipper.

“Every team finds it a huge challenge to win in India. I think that’s a really good test for where we are at as a team.

“In a year or so’s time we want to be walking out at the Gabba in the best place possible and having some very high, intense cricket in the next year leading into that is going to put us in a really good place.

“It [the Ashes] dominates the mind of any English fan or player. For a long time now we’ve already been starting to plan and look towards that and we’ll continue to do that, but we also know how important the cricket is that we’ve got coming up.”

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Root, for one, is determined not to look too far ahead after a summer in which he scored just one fifty in eight innings, extending a run of form that has yielded just two Test centuries since the start of 2019.

Despite the dip, the 29-year-old has been named on the shortlists for the ICC’s Male Cricketer of the Decade and Test Cricketer of the Decade and Root is desperate to turn his frustrating spell around.

“I haven’t really got the returns that I would like and would pride myself on but that’s almost a new challenge for me,” he said. “Can I step my game up again and get to that level that I desire to be at?

“I want to be one of the best players in the world in the format. I’ve spent the last period of time since the end of the season looking at various aspects of my game, thinking ‘what can I do to get myself in that category? How can I make myself harder to get out, more consistent and making bigger contributions more frequently?’

“The game evolves; the opposition look at your game and they find ways to exploit your technique and how you look to score runs and you’ve got to evolve with that and you’ve got to keep making decisions on what’s best to combat how sides are going to try and get you out.

“I’ve made a few little things that hopefully can cross over all three formats and that can stay quite simple and consistent for a long period of time but make it easier for me to spend more time in the middle, and keep my rhythm when I’m batting when I’m playing well.”

For now Root is denied the chance of testing those changes in the shortest format after missing out on selection for England’s T20 series against South Africa, which begins on Friday.

Impressive in England’s intra-squad matches, Root has repeatedly stressed his desire to claim a T20 spot by grabbing his chance when it comes.

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Test skipper Joe Root says he is desperate to win back his T20 spot and help England win more white-ball World Cups.

Test skipper Joe Root says he is desperate to win back his T20 spot and help England win more white-ball World Cups.

“Currently I’m on the outside of the T20 team and that’s part of cricket – sometimes you have to wait your turn. I’ve seen other guys be in that scenario. It took Jonny two years to break back into the ODI team.

“It might be my turn to sit out at the moment but I know what I can bring to this team in this format and I’m really looking forward to watching the guys play.

“It’s a very talented group of players; there is so much ability at the top of the order and I think T20 cricket is in a really strong place at the minute and hopefully we can showcase that in these three T20 games.

He added: “I want to play, obviously; I want to be a part of the team and I want us to win World Cups and to be a part of that. All I can do is try to impress when I get an opportunity.”

England white-ball tour to South Africa

  • Nov 27: First T20I, Cape Town (4pm start)
  • Nov 29: Second T20I, Paarl (12.30pm start)
  • Dec 1: Third T20I, Cape Town (4pm start)
  • Dec 4: First ODI, Cape Town (11am start)
  • Dec 6: Second ODI, Paarl (8am start)
  • Dec 9: Third ODI, Cape Town (11am start)

England will aim to complete a white-ball title double next year at the ICC T20 World Cup after lifting the 50-over trophy in 2019 on home turf.

That success, under skipper Eoin Morgan, was the result of a four-year project founded in the aftermath of the 2015 World Cup campaign; while England’s focus on T20 cricket has been less intense, Root says momentum is building nevertheless.

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England National Selector Ed Smith explains why Joe Root has been left out of the T20I squad for the three-game series against Australia.

England National Selector Ed Smith explains why Joe Root has been left out of the T20I squad for the three-game series against Australia.

“I think it has been a little bit harder for the T20 side – the games have been a little bit more sporadic; over the last year or so there have been more blocks of T20 cricket, which I think will definitely help, and that will continue to be the case leading into that World Cup,” said the Yorkshireman.

“You can definitely see this team evolving and really getting itself ready for that major tournament and that’s a really exciting place to be.”

He added: “We’re in a really good place in both formats. It’s an exciting group to be a part of. No matter who you look at within the group of players, it does look a very strong, formidable team across the two formats.

“I think that has come from the way that the teams have evolved over the last four years under Eoin’s leadership. Building that strength in depth has taken time but now we’re seeing that coming to fruition and hopefully that can continue for many years to come.”

Watch every game of England’s white-ball tour of South Africa live on Sky Sports Cricket, starting with the first T20 from 3.30pm on Friday.