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.