England v Sri Lanka: Renaissance man Joe Root deserves settled role in middle order

 

lord's

During the many discussions about England's new team, there has been little mention of Joe Root.

Great emphasis has been placed on the importance of the newcomers, and how they must settle immediately. Would Sam Robson be ready to be a Test opener? Could Moeen Ali do the job as an off-spinner and as a batsman? How likely was Chris Jordan to carry his exciting limited-overs form into cricket's most exacting challenge?

There has been similar attention on England's senior men, who must fortify Alastair Cook's captaincy and enable their junior colleagues to prosper. How would Matt Prior's form, and his fragile Achilles tendon, hold up? Should Ian Bell bat one place higher at No 3? Does Jimmy Anderson still possess the zest that made him the world's best swing bowler?

Perhaps because he falls into neither camp, Root's name has been absent from these conversations, yet his shifting status in the side shows how dramatically England have changed since last winter's Ashes horror show.

Root has been an international player for less than two years but no longer can he use youth or inexperience as an excuse for failure. At the conclusion of the first Test against Sri Lanka, Robson, Moeen and Gary Ballance will have only four caps between them at this level. Root will have 16. He might still be only 23 but, nevertheless, it is time to become a man.

While it is too early to make definitive judgements, the signs are that Root can handle the task. He made a clear effort here to make more decisive movements forward, after he found himself trapped on the crease too often in Australia.

During that ill-starred tour, Root became so fearful of making a mistake that he was rendered virtually strokeless. It is far more reassuring when he bats at a breezy tempo and runs sharply between the wickets.

Although Root struck only two boundaries in compiling his first 50 runs, he was never becalmed. He had a clear game plan against the crafty Rangana Herath, Sri Lanka's leading spinner, and was never threatened by their seam attack.

In nearly everything he did, Root looked once again the classy, confident young batsman we admired so much in the early weeks of the last English summer.

Here, though, we must be cautious. Before Australia arrived for the 2013 Ashes, England were so impressed with Root that they promoted him from the middle order to open with Cook, discarding Nick Compton as a result.

The move did not work as, apart from his 180 at Lord's, Root was outwitted by the Australian attack. Life was no better on the Ashes tour, either. The Yorkshire batsman made a fine 87 in the second innings at Adelaide but produced little else, and was dropped for the final Test.

Root has, however, had it tougher than some of his colleagues. He made his debut in India at No 6, began last summer at No 4, opened during the home Ashes, returned to No 6 for a single Test of the Australian series before moving back up to No 3 when Jonathan Trott departed after the loss at Brisbane.

Test cricket is difficult enough as it is. It can be doubly so when you never have a chance to understand its rhythms, because you must learn different roles on the hoof. In his short career, Root has been asked both to set the pattern as an opener, and reshape it from various positions in the middle order. It is a lot to ask, regardless of natural talent.

One innings does not complete Root's renaissance but he deserves to be left at No 5 for the whole summer. Root has been at his best for England in the middle order. So give this highly capable young cricketer the best chance to fulfil his potential by allowing him to define a clear mission for himself in the team. For a coach who preaches simplicity, as Peter Moores does, this is a very easy message to heed.

Nuwan Pradeep (centre) brought Ian Bell forward Nuwan Pradeep (centre) brought Ian Bell forward (AP)  

Shot, ball and moment of the day

Shot

Trying to squeeze another wicket at a crucial point in the afternoon, Sri Lanka reintroduced spinner Rangana Herath. His first ball was greeted by Moeen Ali with a slog-cum- drive which sailed over long-on for six. On another day it would have invited disaster; on this day it was perfect.

Ball

In the eighth over of the day – pitch still green, ball still new – Nuwan Pradeep brought Ian Bell forward. The delivery landed on the button, moved away, beat Bell all ends up but grazed neither off stump nor outside edge – probably as well since, Prasana Jayawardene grounded it.

Moment

The handing out of three new England caps before play by the MCC president, Mike Gatting, to Sam Robson, Moeen Ali and Chris Jordan: an Australian, an Englishman and a Barbadian. But whatever country they hailed from there cannot be a much finer moment than this.

Stephen Brenkley

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?