Just Your Average Joe?

There’s nothing average about averaging over 50 in test cricket. But does Joe Root’s average tell the whole story? Could the skipper be doing more to help his team? New guest writer Adam Kiddie investigates …

Long before Joe Root was named England captain earlier this year, discussion around his “conversion rate” was rife amongst commentators. The Yorkshireman, too, was acutely aware of the fact, going public with his frustration on several occasions.

Indeed, for all the qualities the second-best Test batsman in the world possesses – and we all know Steve Smith is just a flat-track bully anyway (wink) — his inability to convert fifties into centuries is a cause for concern as we head towards the Ashes.

While no one can grumble at Root’s genuinely world class average — a touch over 54 at the time of writing — the England skipper has passed 50 on 45 separate occasions but only gone on to score 13 Test centuries. That’s a conversion rate of less than 30%. Quite simply, England needs more than just the average from Root.

This summer’s cricket has only gone further to highlight the issue. While Root has yet again been England’s best batsman, finding himself on a staggering, world record-equalling run of 12 consecutive Test matches scoring at least one half-century, his inability to kick on and take the game away from the opposition has been plain for all to see …

Joe passed 50 on seven separate occasions against South Africa and the Windies — plus throw in a 49 in Manchester to boot — but he only notched a ton twice, with one of those coming in the first Test against the Windies. I think even I might have had a chance to score runs against that attack in those conditions. A conversion rate of less than one in three isn’t good enough.

England bat so deep these days that this flaw in the Yorkshireman’s otherwise flawless record is often long forgotten by the end of the innings – by which point either Stokes, Ali or Bairstow has come in and flashed a quick-fire 80 or 90 to take the team to their target. Indeed, the calibre of England’s lower middle order—with virtually a two-man tail—means that the innings is never really dead until Stuart Broad walks out with the “bowl me a bouncer” sign on his back.

But this winter half centuries won’t be good enough. Big scores win games in Australia. Looking at England’s last two Ashes tours (’10/’11 and ’13/’14), the proof is quite simply in the pudding.

Those tours saw 12 and 11 centuries, respectively. In the former, we notched up 9 of the 12 centuries and England won down under for the first time in a generation. In the latter, we only scored a pathetic 1 out of 11 (a fine maiden ton by Stokes). The series was therefore a wire-to-wire disaster, both on and off the field.

To prevent that from happening again, batsmen will need to step up and be counted. While the likes of Ali and Bairstow have filled their boots at times this summer, England will need someone to dig in and fight for a century when Mitchell Starc starts swinging it round corners. For a young captain spearheading a new generation of English Test cricket, what better way for Root to cement his legacy?

Averaging 54 in Test cricket is no mean feat, and nobody is going to complain if Root comes home with a similar series average. You feel, however, that one man must have a hot streak of three-figure scores if England are to come home with that little urn.

As our finest batsman and leader, it is up to the skipper to be that man. For Root, the time has come to be more than just your average Joe.

Adam Kiddie

2017-09-26T09:17:51+00:00 September 12th, 2017|Player Spotlight|16 Comments


  1. Marc Evans September 12, 2017 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    As we bat so deep I don’t think big tons are as important as in previous series down under. I can’t remember an England side with so many batting options. If Stoneham and Wesley are selected I would expect them to come to the party at some time. Even if Hales goes, my preference over Wesley, his confidence to take on and dominate bowlers will help tactics. The only issue then is who bats at the dreaded no 3. Root is technically better equipped than anyone else, but he clearly prefers 4. Maybe no3 would help him build longer innings?
    Take away Warner and Smith from the Aussie line up and there is little of proven Consistency to be intimidated by. A lot of hot and cold players.
    Equally the bowling, with Stark and Hazelwood recovering from injuries, so maybe not quite 100%, where is the depth required to strangle a side. Neither of their openers is going to be a threat in the same way as Warne and McGrath and there is no proven back-up to keep an attacking minded side in check. You feel they are distinctly getatable. I can’t see Lyon taking a bundle of wickets.

  2. oreston September 12, 2017 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    A sense of perspective is needed here. Joe Root’s conversion rate is far and away the least of England’s batting concerns. We’re going to Australia with unproven batsmen at 2,3 & 5 and an opener who (while still worth his place for want of a viable alternative) is in slow but steady long term decline and has a worse conversion rate in recent years than Joe.

    • Adam Kiddie September 12, 2017 at 10:09 pm - Reply

      It’s a fair point about the other batsmen in the top order, but I think that’s precisely the reason Root needs to kick on more. It might not be fair to have to do the work of three guys, but with none of the new players really stepping up this summer and no sign of consistent runs coming from anywhere else in the top five, he’s probably going to have to (sad but true). If we’re to get the totals of 5-600 we’ll need to win matches in Oz, then someone has to post big, early runs (I also think he should be at three, without question), otherwise the Aussies and the crowd will smell blood quickly.

  3. @pktroll September 13, 2017 at 8:43 am - Reply

    Completely agree that Root should have kicked on in terms of having at least a handful more tons than he has. However it should be noted that the likes of Cook and Bairstow have hardly been bothering the honours boards themselves despite reasonable overall returns and that I would have said that they are probably our second and third best batsmen. Unless several players step up to the plate (sorry for baseball terminology!) and get themselves tons then as Adam notes it will be a tough tour down under.

    • SimonH September 13, 2017 at 9:52 am - Reply

      “it should be noted that the likes of Cook and Bairstow have hardly been bothering the honours boards themselves”.

      Indeed – to mention some stats you won’t often hear from the UK media:
      1) Cook has made 6 centuries in his last 55 Tests and 103 innings (since the start of the 2013 Ashes). He’s reached 50 32 times so hasn’t converted 26 of them into hundreds.
      2) Bairstow, after three centuries in 6 Tests, hasn’t made a century in 18 Tests despite passing fifty 11 times.

      • Andrew September 13, 2017 at 11:55 am - Reply

        In fairness to Bairstow, Consistently making 50s, with the occasional hundred, is probably what he should be doing coming in at number 7 – the hundreds should mostly be coming from the batsmen in the top 5, so Root and Cook improving their conversion rates, and to a greater extent, at least two of the new batsmen starting to come good and cementing their place in the side, are probably bigger concerns for England’s batting order.

        If I was to list England’s batting problems (each pointed out by various commenters in this comment section) in order of concern, I’d probably go as follows:

        1) The three blank slots in the top 5 that need to be filled.
        2) Cook’s long term decline, even as he currently remains our best available opener
        3) Root’s conversion rate
        4) Bairstow’s lack of recent centuries

        3 and 4 are, in my opinion, far less pressing concerns for England. They’re minor details two in form batsmen need to pay attention to and work on. 1 and 2, by contrast, are systemic issues facing the whole England team that have no easy or clear solution.

      • @pktroll September 14, 2017 at 8:06 am - Reply

        The Cook stat is nothing new to me Simon, I just wanted to point out that Bairstow too was also struggling to turn promising innings into really substantive ones although I do take the points Andrew makes. Stokes seems to be coming along nicely and it may be that as he moves along he will improve enough to be a batting all-rounder who comes in for impact with the ball than one you ask to bowl 20 overs a day.

  4. James Morgan September 13, 2017 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    Sometimes having long batting line ups can result in the top order having poorer conversation rates. When you’ve only got 6 batsmen, a keeper, and then a bowling all-rounder at 8 (I’m thinking of guys like Giles here) then it focuses the mind. The top order know they have to knuckle down and go big because there’s little to come after them.

    When you’ve got the likes of Moeen and Woakes at 8 & 9 I think it’s only natural to relax somewhat – safe in the knowledge that there’s plenty of batting in the hutch. I’m not saying that Root is complacent or anything like that, but subconsciously at least the pressure is slightly off. Perhaps this plays a role?

    Other (perhaps more credible) theories for Root’s poorish conversion rate could be (a) mental fatigue (he plays all 3 formats), and (b) he sometimes finds batting too easy and therefore switches off or becomes overly ambitious.

    • Cricketcricketcricket September 13, 2017 at 8:10 pm - Reply

      C) he’s good enough to play test cricket but his mentality is compromised by white ball and tries to score to quickly , meaning he makes errors instead of going big regularly

      England fans like to use the ‘finds batting to easy’ but I’d say it’s defo that his mentality is skewed by white ball

  5. Comte September 14, 2017 at 8:32 am - Reply

    I sometimes think that we cricket fans get too hung up about things like conversion rates and the scoring of tons. Looked at in terms of contribution to a team’s performance is a score in the high 90s less worthy than one in the low hundreds. The answer, most of the time, is almost certainly ‘no’.
    There are so many other things to worry about regarding England’s batting, not least that many of the new picks have turned out to be real duffers. Root is doing OK – he has a very decent average and is consistently England’s best batsman and good to watch as well. In due course he may also become a very good captain. Lay off him.

  6. Art Bugmann September 14, 2017 at 11:41 am - Reply

    It doesn’t matter who gets the runs so long as enough are accrued! Woakes century, Root century so what.

  7. lijo george September 14, 2017 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    I consider Root and Williamson better than Smith and Kohli in tests.

  8. Steve M September 14, 2017 at 10:42 pm - Reply

    Root could have improved his conversion rate considerably by not getting to 50 so often. 13 tons from 110 innings (or 1 ton every 8.4 innings) stands up in comparison to just about every other world class english batsman of the modern era. It also creates a question that i’ve not seen anyone answer – if a batsman was to average 50 would successive scores of 50, 50, 50 and 50 be more or less beneficial to a team than scores of 0, 200, 0 and 0? Personally i have no idea. In England, and notably in the recent series against SA, I’d say four 50s is the more beneficial way to average 50.

    • Cricketcricketcricket September 15, 2017 at 7:29 am - Reply

      Consistent scoring is 99% of the time preferable to one big one and a run of low scores. However, if your role is a number 6+ then that ‘match winning’ score then run of low one sided maybe preferred.

      Depends on your batting position and role within a team. Root HAS to be consistent in his line up, as does cook.. stokes, moeeen and co are free in a way to have one good innings and 3/4 bad ones as long as when they come off it’s a match winningscore

  9. Rob September 16, 2017 at 1:16 am - Reply

    It is lazy to say that Root’s average is world class (53.76) and then say his conversion rate (28%) is poor without acknowledging that when he does score a hundred, his runs per innings figure is some 14 higher than Kohli, Smith or Williamson – i.e. he does score bigger hundreds.

    Clearly Adam finds it difficult to make the argument that Root should be criticised for not averaging 60.00 – (like Smith) – when they get to 30 (one definition of an innings start) almost the same number of times (57 to 56), ignoring Smith’s not out advantage.

    Equally Adam ignores the poor batting form of Team England (and the effect this has on conversion rates). Whether a single player scores a big century and four fifties (like Pietersen in 2006/7) or say scores three large hundreds (Vaughan in 2002/3), this will not usually not guarantee a win.

    Can we honestly say that every batsmen in this line up is able to make 150 once and at least two or them twice (unless we are expecting Australia to collapse at least three times in 10)?

  10. John October 4, 2017 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    Can anyone explain why he can’t convert,,is it because it becomes to easy for him,does he loose concentration,is it boredom,,is he thinking of other things in the game,,even sky cricket recently talked about,,however one thing is certain we have a world class bat in our team,,,other than cook who will retire soon,,the rest are just numbers in an 11.
    Adams dad,cricket purist,non biased and his biggest critic.

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