Alastair Cook hints at an opening for Joe Root to rise up England order

The 22-year-old scored an invalauble 73 on his Test debut against India

The England captain Alastair Cook has hinted that rising star Joe Root could still be in contention to open the batting in the Ashes this summer after an impressive start to his international career.

The 22-year-old scored an invalauble 73 on his Test debut against India batting at No 6 but struggled to repeat that performance on the recent tour of New Zealand, averaging just 17.60 from his five innings. Root is expected to open the batting for Yorkshire when their county championship campaign begins next week against Sussex. And despite the success of Cook's current opening partner, Nick Compton – who scored two centuries in New Zealand – the England captain admitted Root could yet earn a higher spot.

"I don't think it really matters where he bats – the higher up he bats for us the better," Cook said.

"From an England point of view, facing the new ball for Yorkshire and facing the best bowlers gives him the best challenge and hopefully he can keep improving and keep learning."

England salvaged a series draw against New Zealand thanks to a belated rearguard effort in Auckland. However, Cook has warned that performances will have to improve if they are to retain the Ashes.

"We showed fighting spirit to survive, took it down to the wire on the final day and we can take a lot from that because we have become a hard side to beat – but we'd like to have played better," he said.

"The Ashes is going to be a huge part of the summer. Along with the Champions Trophy and New Zealand it's a massive summer, and it's a great opportunity for us to do something special.

"Australia are going to be a tough side. The Ashes brings out the best in them, make no mistake about that, so it's going to be a great battle between two very good sides."