Cook and Root have let England down

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    England may have been denied the presence of their talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes in this Ashes series, but it is the lack of input from their two best batsmen which has crueled them.

    Captain Joe Root entered the Ashes as the world’s number two ranked Test batsman, while former skipper Alastair Cook is England’s all-time leading Test runscorer.

    In the absence of Stokes, due to his alleged involvement in a street brawl, Root and Cook needed to lead the England batting if the tourists were to compete strongly in this series.

    Australia’s quality bowling attack has been their biggest asset for many years now and England’s two most accomplished batsmen simply had to make them toil.

    steve smith david warner celebrate joe root wicket

    (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

    Instead, Cook has continued his horrid run in Ashes cricket and Root is still yet to come to terms with playing in Australia.

    For many years now, Cook has escaped the level of criticism he deserves for his weakness against quality pace bowling. Again and again he receives plaudits for his long and undoubtedly fine career. But the reality is that he has long been very vulnerable against good pace attacks.

    Both Cook’s footwork and his range of strokes are limited. He very rarely strikes the ball confidently in front of square on either side of the wicket.

    His once imperious pull shot, the one he used to pummel Australia in 2010-11, is now only useful against medium pacers.

    That Ashes series, when Cook piled up 766 runs, was an anomaly. An extraordinary performance, but an anomaly.

    Across Cook’s other six Ashes series, he has averaged 28 with the bat. Since 2011, Cook has not had even one good series out of seven against Australia and South Africa, the only two teams he has faced in that time who boasted quality pace units.

    Whether at home or away, Cook has been unable to come to terms with the mix of genuine pace and generous skill boasted by the quicks from those two countries. So it has been this past fortnight as Cook has been worked over by the Australians.

    With 46 runs from three knocks, he has been a non-entity. In a top five featuring three rookie batsmen – James Vince, Mark Stoneman and David Malan – Cook has been the biggest failure, leaving that trio exposed to the marauding Australian attack.

    The Australians know that Cook only has two fruitful strokes these days – the cut shot and the nudge through the leg side. For an attack as gifted as Australia’s, that makes the English veteran very easy to shut down.

    It is hard to see how Cook will have any impact over the remainder of this series and, to be blunt, that won’t particularly matter as the Ashes are already all but gone.

    Even an epic knock from Root in the second innings of this Test is unlikely to save England.

    While Root is a fantastic batsman, there is no ignoring his woeful record in Australia. From six Tests down under, he has made just 267 runs at 26.

    Joe Root

    (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

    It is the one major blot on his incredible Test record, yet even if Root dominates over the remainder of this series it will be too little too late.

    He needed to set the tone for his side early in the series, like his opposite number Steve Smith did at Brisbane as he hauled Australia out of the muck with a remarkable unbeaten ton.

    Root, meanwhile, had a chink in his technique exposed by the Australians, who noted the manner in which he often overbalances to the offside when looking to flick the ball off his pads.

    Twice at Brisbane he was undone in the same manner by pace deliveries tailing in towards Root and trapping him in front.

    Yesterday we got a peek at Root’s biggest weakness, his tendency to aim optimistic drives at wide deliveries better left alone. It is via such loose drives off either the front or back foot that Root regularly donates his wicket.

    In comparison to Smith, who is so hard to dislodge once well set, Root drives England supporters mad by throwing away starts with needless strokes.

    He has reached 50 a whopping 46 times in Test cricket, yet has turned only 13 of those knocks into centuries. Root may just have one final chance to swing this series over the next two days if England can go on to roll Australia very cheaply today.

    Australia have been left ever so slightly vulnerable by Smith’s bizarre decision not to enforce the follow on yesterday. The hosts had England down and out, with an opportunity to bowl at them again with a new ball under lights.

    Instead Smith handed that juicy scenario over to England, who gleefully accepted his offer and made the most of it.

    With the pink ball swinging and seaming all over the place, as it tends to do in the final session, England’s quicks looked more dangerous than they had all series. This ensured that Smith’s decision came back to haunt him.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (93)

    • December 5th 2017 @ 6:38am
      Targa said | December 5th 2017 @ 6:38am | ! Report

      “While Root is a fantastic batsman, there is no ignoring his woeful record in Australia. From six Tests down under, he has made just 267 runs at 26. It is the one major blot on his incredible Test record, yet even if Root dominates over the remainder of this series it will be too little too late.”

      His record in NZ is even worse. In 3 tests on roads in 2013 when lesser players like Nick Compton, Peter Fulton, Matt Prior and Hamish Rutherford scored centuries he only averaged 17.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 7:35am
        George said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

        Will soon get a chance to rectify that.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 8:38am
          Train Without A Terminus said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:38am | ! Report

          You forgot your *italics*

      • December 5th 2017 @ 1:21pm
        Jake said | December 5th 2017 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

        Agree. All tip, no iceberg

    • December 5th 2017 @ 6:54am
      Fadida said | December 5th 2017 @ 6:54am | ! Report

      If, and it is a big if, Root plunders our attack in the last 3 tests it won’t be “too little too late”.

      The signs aren’t good for England but I’d argue that the Ashes aren’t yet gone. Not by a distance.

      Perhaps that’s me growing up and listening to the ’81 tour on the radio!

      • Roar Guru

        December 5th 2017 @ 9:23am
        Edward L'Orange said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        No I agree, it is far too early to get the parade going. A very tough session this afternoon: we need at least 350 to be at all comfortable, and preferably 370+.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 9:52am
        Gordo said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

        We’re only half way through the second game of a five game series so the series certainly isn’t over. Ronan looks to be getting a little ahead of himself here. Who knows what Root and Cook will do in the second innings, let alone the rest of the series.

        I don’t think Smith made that bad a decision not enforcing the follow on either. There wasn’t many people saying he “must” follow on before the ball turned into an invisible grenade, so based on the first two night sessions I think it was fair for Smith to be confident they could get through and pile on some runs. However I think Smith made a mistake when he saw Warner and Khawaja doing a great job hanging tough against nearly impossible deliveries. When they got out he shouldn’t have kept sending in batsman, Lyon, Hazlewood and Starc should have been used up so the batters could have a crack today.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 12:30pm
          Worlds Biggest said | December 5th 2017 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

          Well said Gordo, totally agree with you.

    • Roar Rookie

      December 5th 2017 @ 7:33am
      Lancey5times said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      And this is without mentioning Roots captaincy. Enough has been spoken about the toss but he missed it big time last night. The field he expected Broad to bowl to was awful and when he finally got Handscomb on strike to Anderson he took him off and brought back Broad who had is confidence dented from his earlier task. I know Anderson had bowled a ling spell but with a few overs left in the day one more should have been ok given he had the ball hooping

    • December 5th 2017 @ 7:38am
      qwetzen said | December 5th 2017 @ 7:38am | ! Report

      re Smith not enforcing the fo.

      To be fair to Smith the pink ball in this Test hadn’t been as playful at night as any previous day/nighter.

      Meanwhile in the Shield…. Well done to Qld for playing Head & Carey back into Oz contention. We put Australia first.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 8:22am
        jameswm said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

        Yeah, we survived the pink ball fine on the first day, and thee are 2 more evening sessions to come. If we can bat well into the 2nd session, we’ll be setting England 350-400 to win, and starting under lights.

        It was a bit of a damned if you do and damned if you don’t for Smith. In favour of bowling again were that they were getting a big 40 min break, then had one session to go then a rest again. We’re still well ahead – we could declare now and still probably win.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 9:05am
          spruce moose said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report

          Indeed, Australia are still certain victors.

          I feel Smith missed the opportunity to inflict permanent psychological damage on the English by getting Joe Root out twice in a day.

          There would have been no coming back from that sledgehammer.

          Now, Smith has given the English the opportunity for a little bit of meaningless batting practice before an inevitable loss.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 1:12pm
          ozinsa said | December 5th 2017 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

          It was a poor decision. It usually sends the message that we don’t want to bat last. If the bowlers were gassed then it’s understandable. If not, unforgivable. He’s taken his foot off the throat and no good can come of it.

          • Roar Rookie

            December 5th 2017 @ 1:52pm
            Matthew Pearce said | December 5th 2017 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

            When do you ever want to bat last?

            Our pace trio are consistently above their’s and Lyon will have a field day on a deteriorating pitch. It’s really not that bad a decision.

            • December 5th 2017 @ 2:19pm
              ozinsa said | December 5th 2017 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

              If they are 4 down at stumps following on, it’s game, set and match. Wrong call

              • December 5th 2017 @ 3:50pm
                Bakkies said | December 5th 2017 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

                Ozinsa England put on 60 odd for their eighth wicket. As sloppy as they have been with the bat they still have a deep line up that could still scrape a lead the following day.

              • December 5th 2017 @ 3:57pm
                Nudge said | December 5th 2017 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

                Spot on Matthew, why the heck would you want to bat last if you don’t have to. Smith made the right call. A call he wouldn’t have had to put too much thought into.

    • Roar Rookie

      December 5th 2017 @ 8:04am
      El Loco said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:04am | ! Report

      Alec Swann, where are you?

      This is not a swipe by the way, but a plea for balance. It’s beginning to feel as if The Roar is as biased as Channel 9, replacing the latter’s nitwittery with cold hard stats. Either way, it would be nice to read something that doesn’t declare the series over because we’re one and five eights in front (with the 5/8 being retractable) and someone somewhere has a dud average.

      Rather be in Australia’s position right now but setting the world alight we are not.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 9:09am
        Kangajets said | December 5th 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

        Typical home test series for Australia

        In 2 years time in England, our boys will look like chumps.

        • December 5th 2017 @ 2:02pm
          Jordan c said | December 5th 2017 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

          I really hope not but probably correct. Hopefully Anderson is gone by then toothless tiger here but credit where it’s due at home.

          • December 5th 2017 @ 3:02pm
            DaveJ said | December 5th 2017 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

            At 6/77 with the possibility of a 320 chase he’s not looking so toothless. Wouldn’t but on it, but a Headingly ‘81 style upset and egg on our faces is not out of the question. Handscomb’s luck looks to have run out, Maxwell to have another run now.

    • December 5th 2017 @ 8:10am
      Jumbo said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:10am | ! Report

      Cook, the way he’s going, is going to end his career averaging 43/44, which will be a great shame.

      Root’s problem (as well as the technical error you mention) is that he’s plundered too many average bowling attacks, and can’t seem to dial it back (as Smith did so well in Brisbane) now he’s facing the genuine article. He’s been loose for a while and has got away with it against weaker teams.

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