Why Joe Root must bat at No.3 in Australia

Eddie Otto Roar Guru

By Eddie Otto, Eddie Otto is a Roar Guru

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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.

    There have been upsets aplenty in the World Cup so far, so be sure to check out our expert tips and predictions for South Korea vs Sweden, Belgium vs Panama and England vs Tunisia and get the good oil on who to tip tonight.

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    The Crowd Says (39)

    • October 3rd 2017 @ 9:18am
      jameswm said | October 3rd 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      So if Root bats at 3, we can hopefully have a good crack at him with the new ball quite often.

      If he opts for a lamb to the slaughter and stays at 3, he can come in at 2 for not many and under more pressure.

      I’m guessing England will now bat
      5. Bairstow
      6. Foakes
      7. An all rounder here or at 6?
      8. Ali
      9. Woakes
      then Anderson and Broad.

      Stokes is worth a lot as a pretty genuine all rounder. Can’t see him playing the first couple of tests, at least.

      • October 3rd 2017 @ 10:29am
        Pope Paul VII said | October 3rd 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

        Stokes could be playing for Wormwood Scrubs vs The Old Bailey.

      • October 3rd 2017 @ 12:04pm
        jameswm said | October 3rd 2017 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

        Sorry I meant “If he opts for a lamb to the slaughter at 3 and stays at 4″…

      • October 3rd 2017 @ 4:05pm
        George said | October 3rd 2017 @ 4:05pm | ! Report

        Woakes and Ali would bat above Foakes I’d say.

        • October 3rd 2017 @ 10:46pm
          Nudge said | October 3rd 2017 @ 10:46pm | ! Report

          No, Foakes would definitely bat above Woakes and I’d be surprised if he didn’t bat above Ali. Foakes would nearly make England’s side as just a batter. Off the top of my head he averages around 42 in first class cricket.
          The lower Moeen comes in, the more tired the bowlers are, and the more dangerous he becomes.

          • October 5th 2017 @ 8:22am
            George said | October 5th 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

            Woakes is established with a decent track record. He batting is so underrated/ignored it’s become absurd.

            But Foakes has done well for Essex granted.

          • October 6th 2017 @ 10:48am
            ColinP said | October 6th 2017 @ 10:48am | ! Report

            at the batting paradise the oval…..you shouldnt judge a player you’ve never seen bat, I’ve barely seen foakes play so i have no idea why he has so many advocates on roar….stats gurus (averages have context). He’s v good yes, but not near the test side unless bairstow gets injured. Probably similar batting to woakes, not in same class as ali

    • Roar Guru

      October 3rd 2017 @ 10:43am
      The Bush said | October 3rd 2017 @ 10:43am | ! Report

      Are English averages lower than Australian ones in FC level? Australian batsmen always seem to have a higher average playing county compared to their Shield averages. Must have changed recently.

      I’m too young to remember it, but when Australia struggled in the ’80s, did Border used to face a similar amount of criticism for playing down the order?

      • October 3rd 2017 @ 11:38am
        Pope Paul VII said | October 3rd 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report

        No he didn’t.

        Border was tried at 3 before he became Capt. He didn’t go so well, although I think he did score a 100 vs The West Indies!

        Steve Waugh also had a run at 3 vs The West Indies 92/93. He struggled. 229 @25.44. It included an even 100 at Sydney. Had a bit of luck at 50 too. Looked plainly lbw. 4 years earlier he batted further down and averaged about 40 against arguably a better attack. Scored 2 swashbuckling 90s in a row. One at 4 and the other at 7.

        Even great batsmen struggle up the order.

        I’m inclined to think Joe should bat no higher than 4.

        • Roar Guru

          October 3rd 2017 @ 12:56pm
          The Bush said | October 3rd 2017 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

          That’s the thing, if he’s gonna average 50 odd or 4, but only 40 odd at 3, then I’d want him at 4 – doesn’t matter how many down you are when he comes out, if that’s how he makes his runs. I’ve never understood the desire to weaken one position to try and strengthen another. They should be looking for a specialist number 3.

          • October 3rd 2017 @ 2:17pm
            Pope Paul VII said | October 3rd 2017 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

            Spot on Bushy.

          • Roar Guru

            October 3rd 2017 @ 2:43pm
            Chris Kettlewell said | October 3rd 2017 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

            His 40-odd average at 3 is from the early point in his career though. There is something different about the #3 position, but Root does seem to be the sort of batsman with the right technique for that position. A bit like Steve Smith, if Khawaja is in the side, he’s going to bat at #3 and Smith go in at 4, but Smith has no issues playing at #3 if there isn’t someone like Khawaja in the side who actually is better batting at #3 than further down the order.

            I think Root really would be the same. And more importantly, I think it really gives them their best balanced batting lineup. Combine that also with Bairstow playing as a batsman and Foakes taking the gloves looks better than playing 3 rookies in the top 5.

            Doesn’t look likely to happen though, Root really seems to not want to bat at 3 and Bairstow really wants to keep the gloves, and it seems likely the selectors are going to let him.

            • October 4th 2017 @ 12:02am
              Pope Paul VII said | October 4th 2017 @ 12:02am | ! Report

              Australia had trouble at No.3 for years but Clarke and Huss didn’t go up the ladder to fill the void.

              • Roar Guru

                October 4th 2017 @ 8:34am
                Chris Kettlewell said | October 4th 2017 @ 8:34am | ! Report

                I never said all batsmen should. Clarke was best at 4 or 5, he was a great player of spin who could really take things on from that position. Hussey probably could have done the job there, he was an opener for WA before being picked in the middle order for Australia.

                I’m not saying all batsmen are suited to that sort of role, but I wouldn’t see any reason why Root wouldn’t be. In a lot of ways he seems the archetypal #3 type batsman.

      • October 3rd 2017 @ 11:14pm
        Nudge said | October 3rd 2017 @ 11:14pm | ! Report

        No, I don’t think English averages are lower than Australian ones in FC cricket. Obviously with the amount of rain around England the wickets are more difficult to bat on. But they have at least 16 teams so have nearly 180 players playing in a round. They do have 1 or 2 professionals playing in each team though. Australia have 6 teams, so 66 players playing in a round. That means they have an extra 100 players filling up each teams 11. If we had 16 teams we would be pulling another 100 from first grade from each state. That would obviously weaken the competition. Jesse Ryder played county cricket last year and opened the bowling all year. He bowls at about 115km

        • October 5th 2017 @ 8:26am
          George said | October 5th 2017 @ 8:26am | ! Report

          But more games per side means it’s harder to sustain an average no? Especially with the harder climatic conditions thrown in.

    • October 3rd 2017 @ 10:44am
      Ozibatla said | October 3rd 2017 @ 10:44am | ! Report

      Yeh Englands batting looks light on doesnt it. This is why Ive stated in the past that Cook is vital for the Poms. Root is a class player and is almost certain to perform better than in 2013/14. So if Cook were to churn out some big scores it could perhaps paper over the other cracks in their batting.
      This will also put a big onus on Broad and Anderson to perform if their totals are on the skinny side.

      • October 3rd 2017 @ 12:05pm
        jameswm said | October 3rd 2017 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

        I hope Anderson performs to his usual standard in Australia.

      • Roar Guru

        October 3rd 2017 @ 2:46pm
        Chris Kettlewell said | October 3rd 2017 @ 2:46pm | ! Report

        Basically, England need Cook and Root to both have really good series. They may get some contributions from others here and there, but it’s hard to see big runs coming from anywhere else. Both sides have holes in their batting lineups. But Khawaja, Handscomb and Renshaw in Australian conditions against the English bowlers look much more likely than any of the guys filling those spots for England. And whoever fills that #6 spot is likely not going to be any worse than their English counterpart now that Stokes is looking like long-odds to play any real part in the series.

    • Roar Guru

      October 3rd 2017 @ 11:09am
      Ryan H said | October 3rd 2017 @ 11:09am | ! Report

      Cook, Root and Bairstow getting big runs has to happen to give England some chance. The time is now for Root to shoulder this load, and take the responsibility for his side. If his concerns are facing an almost brand new ball against firing Australian quicks, dropping down to four will hardly fix this, as an inferior number three like Vince or Ballance could see Root coming in at 2/20 or 2/30 quite regularly anyway.

      • Roar Guru

        October 3rd 2017 @ 2:50pm
        Chris Kettlewell said | October 3rd 2017 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

        Exactly, which is basically why Smith put himself at #3 when he did. If you’ve got someone in the team who’s preference is #3, and can do really well there (in Australia at least!), like Khawaja, then he doesn’t need to, but if there wasn’t such a batsman and the option is to put in a rookie who would really be better off coming in further down the order or batting yourself there, then surely you choose the latter.

        But we’ll see what happens when they get here. Everyone keeps saying Root is definitely not going to bat at 3 and Bairstow is definitely not going to give up the gloves for Foakes, but you never know what will happen until we see the teamsheet on the first morning of the Gabba test.

    • October 3rd 2017 @ 11:15am
      BurgyGreen said | October 3rd 2017 @ 11:15am | ! Report

      You’d think that Root, having himself been fed to the wolves at the top of the order at the start of his career, would feel some sympathy for whichever poor rookie is next in line to face the music at first drop.

    • Roar Guru

      October 3rd 2017 @ 5:45pm
      Scott Pryde said | October 3rd 2017 @ 5:45pm | ! Report

      Agree Root needs to bat No.3, but I doubt he will. Vince or Ballance will get that job.

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