Why Joe Root must bat at No.3 in Australia

Eddie Otto Roar Rookie

By , Eddie Otto is a Roar Rookie

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    England announced their 16-man touring party to Australia last week and immediately attention turned to whether the side named was good enough to take the Ashes home.

    With Ben Stokes’ immediate future in severe doubt due to an alcohol fuelled brawl, England are already in off-field turmoil before they even land on our shores.

    Having named three rookies who have yet to play a Test Match in their touring party, including Ben Foakes, Mason Crane and Craig Overton, the squad would be stretched further by their talisman and Vice-Captain’s likely absence.

    With their recent top-order batting struggles, and Stokes’ immediate future under a cloud, Joe Root will certainly be in for a baptism of fire in his first Ashes Series as England captain.

    So how are England going to be competitive out here given their lack of experience in the top order and recent overseas record?

    For me the first consideration is for head coach Trevor Bayliss to insist their best player and captain, Joe Root, steps up and bats at No.3.

    Root, as captain, must take the bull by the horns, perhaps sacrificing a couple of points in his average, and place himself higher in the order than players who might be lambs to the slaughter out here.

    Joe Root is one of the top three batsmen currently in world cricket, alongside Steve Smith and Virat Kohli.

    England's Joe Root during day four of the the second Investec Test match at Headingley, Leeds. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday August 28, 2017. See PA story CRICKET England. Photo credit should read: Nigel French/PA Wire.

    (Nigel French/PA Wire)

    Root, averaging 54 from No.4 and 73 from No.5, is by far England’s best batsman and must take on the responsibility of coming in at first drop.

    As a young player, he had to come to Australia and bat at 3 in his debut series, so he is no stranger to it and no rookie anymore.

    Root averages over 40 as both an opening batsman and from 11 innings at No.3, so the argument that he is not as effective there doesn’t wash for me.

    England were unceremoniously swept by Australia 5-0 in their last Ashes Series down under, even with a far more experienced side back in the summer of 2013/14.

    That squad contained proven and experienced batsman like Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Matt Prior.

    While that England team had perhaps come to the end of their run and were a little jaded, it’s hard to make a case that this squad has anywhere near the level of experience and quality of the team that was swatted aside in these conditions four years ago.

    As history would tell, Trott lasted one Test before flying home, whilst Pietersen, Bell and Prior struggled on an energy-sapping Tour.

    Outside of Root, who averages 53 and the experienced Cook who averages 46, England don’t have another player in their touring party who averages over 40 in Test cricket.

    In fact, the records of Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Dawid Malan and Gary Ballance would be cause for concern for Trevor Bayliss heading into a series where the tourists are likely to come up against a pace battery of Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.

    Stoneman looked relatively good against the West Indies, despite only averaging 30 from three Test matches.

    However, the fact Stoneman has played 151 First Class games and averages just 35 shows he is an honest toiler more than anything, and doubts must remain as to whether he can rise to another level at the age of 30.

    James Vince is another speculative pick after he averaged just 17 in his only seven Test matches. Vince averages a respectable 39 in First Class cricket, and it should be noted that English First Class averages are often not as high as Australian averages given the conditions they face with greener wickets and colder conditions.

    Gary Ballance might look ugly with his homespun, back foot technique; however he at least averages 37 from 23 Tests, and has a strong First Class average of 48. Dawid Malan is lucky to be in the touring party after averaging just 23 from his 5 Tests this summer.

    While England might be ranked third currently in the world, and Australia fifth, Australia will deservedly start the series as a fairly strong favourite given recent history between the two cricketing nations.

    Home sides have generally dominated Ashes Series over the past decade and a half. Australia have lost their last four Ashes contests in England, while England have enjoyed just one series victory in Australia since 1985, coming in 2011/12.

    Since England’s last tour of Australia, their form has remained fairly ordinary overseas in Test cricket.

    In 15 Tests on the road, England have won just one from five series, a 2-1 triumph over South Africa in 2015.

    They struggled to 1-1 series draws against lowly Bangladesh and the West Indies, as well as being punished 4-0 in India and 2-0 in Dubai against Pakistan. Just four victories have come from those 15 Tests, with two draws and nine losses.

    Australia, if you include their sweep of England, have won five from six of their last home Test series, with their only loss coming last year against South Africa 2-1.

    In their last 21 Tests on home soil, Australian retain a relatively imposing record with 15 victories and four draws, coming at a time when the team hasn’t always been settled, or contained anywhere near the same aura it did back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    Ordinarily, I would say, with the strain of the captaincy of an Ashes Tour, batting at No.4 would give Root a little bit more space and time from the pressure cooker and acid test which is a visit to Australia.

    However, while he is young and relatively fresh in the role, he needs to take on that responsibility in a side lacking quality top order batsmen.

    There is no doubt the strength of this England side is the batting depth they have in the middle order. Through Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes, England do have some quality all-rounders who can dominate in the right circumstances.

    However, those circumstances are not coming in with the side at two down for less then 30 most innings, or four or five wickets down for less than 100. Often these players struggle in these kinds of situations.

    If England can provide a platform for their stroke players in the middle order, they could well flourish – and that’s why Root needs to step up and bat at No.3 as the team’s captain and best batsman.

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