Ashes 2013-14: Joe Root keeps smiling through heat of the sledging battle

  • @stephenbrenkley

No one is saying what is being said out in the middle as the Ashes sledging war rages. Safe to assume that the players are not asking for addresses to send Christmas cards.

The fourth day of the second Test was replete with what the players like to call banter and to the rest of the population is threatening behaviour.

As the teams walked off the field, Stuart Broad headed straight for Mitchell Johnson and Matt Prior was seen exchanging words with Brad Haddin, honorary vice-presidents of the wicketkeepers’ sledging club. With three matches to go in the series there is plenty of scope for it to become much more heated yet. It seems the match referee, Jeff Crowe, is powerless.

Joe Root, who played extremely assiduously for his 87, appeared to meet the disdain to which he was regularly subjected with a toothy Yorkshire grin. He was youthful innocence personified.

“I didn’t feel there was anything going on out there,” he said. “You want to play hard cricket, and it’s Ashes cricket – you’d expect that. You’d be disappointed if there wasn’t a bit of rivalry and what have you. I think it makes entertaining cricket to watch.”

He is right about that. There is something compelling about players going toe to toe and the crowd clearly adored it.

“It’s certainly good to be involved in that in the middle,” Root said. “You know you’re in a battle. You know you’ve got to fight for your country. I think you’ve got to find your own way of doing it.”

Root would not reveal what was said to him. Actually, he smiled disarmingly as he had at Johnson when he was asked. It is a wonderful strategy.

“Individuals have ways of handling themselves at the crease, and you’ve got to try to find a way that will help England be successful,” he said.

“I think they were just trying to get under my skin, and hoping they could find a way to get me out. I’d expect any team to do that. It’s good confrontation.”

This was probably Root’s most complete innings for England, including the 180 he made against Australia at Lord’s last summer. It possessed authority, composure and assured shot selection. He took on the best Johnson could offer without demur. The debate about his position at  No 3 ahead of Ian Bell should be stilled for the moment.