The Ashes 2013: Graham Gooch sings praises of England’s grounded shooting star Joe Root

Batting coach impressed by man of the match Root’s desire to learn and improve

Shortly after Joe Root reached fifty in the second Test he drove a four fiercely, imperiously through the covers with both feet in the air. It was the stroke of a virtuoso but it was also the antithesis of what Root is all about as a cricketer.

Here is a young man with both feet firmly planted on the ground. Rooted, as it were, to the spot. He went on to score 180 and was out, selflessly, in search of 200 attempting to play a reverse ramp shot to one of the few points on the field where Australia had not posted boundary riders.

Root later snaffled two crucial wickets with the same casual verve and was man of the match for the first time. England won an immense victory by 347 runs and are 2-0 ahead in the Ashes, a position they last reached after two matches in 1936.

Talk of a whitewash may be premature but unless Australia decide to turn up at Old Trafford next week it is also perfectly valid. The feeling always was that the tourists had to start well in the series to have a chance of pushing England.

After going down, excruciatingly, by 14 runs in the first Test at Trent Bridge, it was as if they had nothing left to give at Lord's, or at least did not know how to give it. To compound their misery it seems that England have found a batsman for the ages.

From the moment when, on only eight, Root edged a ball from Shane Watson past the wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, his second innings at Lord's was all but seamless. The bat was  invariably straight and if he tended to prefer the back foot he knew when he had to barge his way on to the front.

It was his second Test hundred in three matches - the first at his home ground, Headingley, the second at Lord's, which is some double - and it was possible to think of him scoring the 22nd or the 32nd. Occasionally, there comes along a player who simply has what it takes.

There was some debate about moving up Root to open the innings in this series, partly because he had done well enough at No 6, partly because it seemed slightly harsh on Nick Compton. As the years pass it will be as though there had been nothing to discuss, which may still be harsh on Compton but is what happens when a star is born.

Graham Gooch, England's batting coach, liked what he saw at Lord's but was keeping his feet exactly where Root keeps his. "I think from the first time we all experienced Joe in India, a few months back, it was quite evident that this lad was very mature mentally, had a good work ethic and was very keen to learn," said Gooch.

"One innings doesn't make you a regular for a long period of time. He's shown good promise. He still needs to be tested in different conditions, if he goes down to Australia this winter."

That was a wonderful hedging of the selectorial process. In Gooch's eyes, going to Australia this winter remains an if not a when. Nonetheless, to be on the safe side, Root may care to ensure that his passport is up to date.

It is evident, however, that Gooch is well aware what England are on to in the blond kid from Sheffield. While he was careful in the way he expressed it, Gooch knows that Root should have a career as durable as Gooch's own, or  indeed as any of the other great Yorkshire opening batsman who have graced England's Test side down the years; Herbert Sutcliffe, Len Hutton, Geoff Boycott, Michael Vaughan.

"One of the most important ingredients for a sportsman is being prepared to drive his own career forward," Gooch said. "He's not waiting for advice; he's seeking it. He's seeking information, looking for new ideas. Every individual handles it differently. It's early days.

"But I have nothing to suggest to me that Joe won't continue to be a successful player at international cricket. But a lot of things can come along and test you, so we'll wait and see. The jury's out on that but at moment he's going in the right direction."

 



In terms of a placid temperament and dogged character, the last England batsman to come along who looked most likely to succeed was Alastair Cook. But Root, 22, has also elicited comparisons with David Gower for the way in which he makes the game seem easy, playing the ball late, implicitly trusting his instincts because he knows they are right.

"Alastair Cook had a similar mentality when he was Joe's age," said Gooch. "He was mature in the mind, he knew exactly how he could score runs and I think anyone who saw Joe in the winter saw that, too.

"He has a confidence about him. Even in this match there was a little snapshot. Australia quite rightly knew we'd like him to get a double hundred and that would suit our 600 target as well so they put everyone back on the boundary. So what does the lad do? He goes for the one shot where they haven't got a fielder which tells you a lot about Joe."

England are trying desperately not to get ahead of themselves but they must know that their hands are placed firmly round Australia's throat. For the tourists, there is a week to try to  regroup, when a year may not be long enough to teach their batsmen how Test innings should be constructed.

"We batted 55 overs in the first innings which is not acceptable for this group and we have to get a lot better than that," said their coach, Darren Lehmann, who is just beginning to discover the enormity of his task.

"As a group we know we have to play better. I have played this game and felt sorry for the bowlers - they only got three and a half hours off. Top six or top seven. The bottom order needs a rest before they go and bat."

But Australia also continue to be beset by antics beyond the dressing room involving offensive tweets and legal action by their former coach, Mickey Arthur. Doubtless they will continue to insist that none of it affects them. Which is as well, because if they were bothered by all that other stuff  it does not bear contemplating how dreadful they would have been at Lord's.

Compton and Taylor in Ashes frame as cover

On Monday England batting coach Graham Gooch was not prepared to discuss the candidates to replace Kevin Pietersen if his sore calf rules him out of next week's Old Trafford Test.

"Whether he will be fit for Old Trafford, he'd be in doubt," said Gooch. "I'm sure there will be some cover supplied."

That cover could come in the form of Nick Compton though Varun Chopra and James Taylor, both in form for their counties, are in contention.

Gerard Brand

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