Root Ignores Own Advice, Scores Ton

Yesterday England’s batsmen had their best opportunity all series to score some runs. The pitch wasn’t easy but the Windies attack was seriously depleted. Their captain, Jason Holder, was sitting in the stands. And his replacement Keemo Paul was carted off the field with a nasty looking injury. Suddenly the remaining Windies quicks had a lot more work to do, and fatigue inevitably set in.

Enter the two Joes. Neither had looked convincing thus far on tour. Root had received some unplayable deliveries and Denly had looked as nervous as a virgin at a brothel. But yesterday was a different story. Perhaps buoyed by a complete lack of scoreboard pressure, Denly looked rather composed for a batsman playing for his test future.

The man of Kent defended stoutly, drove elegantly, and basically looked like the high class prospect he was as a youngster. What a shame his career didn’t really pan out the way his admirers (which included myself) thought it would.

It was a real shame that Denly didn’t make his ton. He was playing so well. The manner of his dismissal was disappointing too. Having played a wafty cut at a wide ball and missed by a whisker, he inexplicably repeated the shot next ball and nicked it behind this time. It was a real head in hands moment.

On the positive side, Joe might have played himself into contention for an Ashes spot with his eye-pleasing half-century. The Aussies have a swarm of nasty fast bowlers and he generally looked unruffled by the pace of Gabriel and Joseph. It reminded me of the time when Denly looked a class above the other Lions batsmen when England’s second string played the Aussies back in 2009. Brett Lee bowled rapidly and took 6-76. Denly swatted him away off front foot and back with aplomb, and looked like he had all the time in the world to play his shots.

On the negative side, the nature of his dismissal was very soft. England have lots of players capable of making fancy fifties but few who can make match defining hundreds. And Denly may never get a better chance to register a maiden century. Fifties are all very well but they won’t cement a batsman’s place in the side.  Just ask James Vince, another elegant right-hander, who scored 76 in his last test innings before being kicking into the presumably pretty short grass. One suspects at age 27 that Vince may get another opportunity sooner rather than later. Denly, on the other hand, is 32 and time is running out for him.

Fortunately for England, however, the other Joe saw the job through this time. It was his 16th test hundred to go along with his 41 fifties. Root hasn’t always been able to deliver three figures for his team, but on this occasion he came good. And England are sitting pretty, erm, pretty as a result.

People will argue that this game is a dead rubber, and everything was in Root’s favour, but I sense it was still an important knock for the skipper. He hasn’t had a good time of late – his stint in the Big Bash was not a success and he’s look a bit out of sorts in the Caribbean – so this was a morale boosting knock. Note to Joe: give up the T20 crap and focus on what you’re best at.

The other interesting thing about Root’s innings was that he completely ignored his own advice. Before the Antigua test he espoused the benefits of a pro-active approach at the crease: you don’t win test by being passive etc, you win by putting runs on the board. Joe must have twigged pretty quickly that he was talking cobblers as yesterday’s knock was very prudent to begin with.

The thing I loved about Root’s century was that played himself in with great care before finally expanding his repertoire of shots in the final session. One wonders whether the skipper really believed what he said before the second test or whether he just had Tom Harrison’s hand up his arse at that particular moment? This do or die attitude has not served England particularly well in red ball cricket, so it was great to see the skipper bat with common sense.

England’s lead is now 448 and we still have six wickets in hand. Nothing is going to stop us now. The pitch still offers quite a lot of assistance for the seamers when the ball is new and hard. I can’t see a Windies side missing its captain and with the series already in the bag putting up much a fight on the fourth innings.

What’s more, a few balls started to keep low as the day wore on yesterday. Mark Wood and Stuart Broad will be licking their lips.

This game is done folks.

James Morgan


  • You always need some luck. What would we be saying about Denly if that dolly hadn’t been spilled when he was on 12?
    Talking about luck, I’ve not seen many balls more unplayable than the one that did for Jos Buttler in this innings. At fault in the first innings, yes, but how do you play that one?

  • Windies depleted, injuries, no captain and the foot comes of the gas. But Root played like Root should and Denly showed he’s potentially a more capable number 3 than anyone else recently. Shame about the poor shot that got him out, I thought the pitch was flattening out a bit so the Windies will bat for a draw of course! Never say never in cricket but I won’t place a bet.

    Test against Ireland/Ashes first two games top 3 anyone?
    Burns (unless Cook comes out of retirement)
    Vince (Hants have been asked to open with him in the CC)
    Denly (Bell outside possibility)

    • How James “unnecessary cover drive and nick off” Vince is a Test opener I have no idea.

      Still might be better than Jennings, though.

      • Vince has been excellent in the BBL so that is certain to make him a top selection.

        Notably Neither Denly or Root did that great in the BBL so I would probably drop them.

  • Joe “it’s not about batting time” Root bats time, finally scores runs.

    The question is: who told him to say that?

  • The only long term issue to come from this test is that the exploits of Wood and Root will bail the selectors out of a tight spot. They will now be able to come back with a winter tour result of 4-2 and blame poor quality pitches for the aberrations of defeat. The bits and pieces direction will continue this summer and with better pitches likely for the Ashes series mediocre batsmen will once again make contributions down the order.
    The problem of course is if you want to address the cause of this you have to prioritise the county game as a breeding ground for test players. The present tunnel visioned marketing executives at the ECB have never shown any interest in this and there is no reason to think this winter will change anything on that front.
    I know cricket has always changed with the times but the recent pace of change is not organic, driven by public demand, it is an artificial acceleration driven by people with little interest in the finer points of a game, who believe dumbing down guarantees more popularity, driven by the ‘success’ of mainstream reality TV and formula movies, which have become a staple diet. No other sport I can think of has resorted to this selling of the soul to compromise the game’s very identity, all for a far from proven cash cow.
    If this seems churlish I apologise, and congratulate Wood and Root on quality performances.

    • Totally agree Marc.

      The one thing the selectors need to be careful about though is the assumption that lower order players will make runs on better pitches. Australia have a high quality attack, and lower order players usually struggle against genuine pace. We saw this in the last Ashes when England’s numbers 7-11 were simply blown away. Only top class players make runs against top class bowling.

      • It is undoubtedly easier to combat pace on English pitches rather than in Oz or the Caribbean. I guess that’s the man reason we produce so little on the pace front domestically. Also our lower order now includes the likes of Ali, Woakes, Foakes and Curran, who have all shown repeated ability to make significant scores. They are not traditional tail Enders, at county level they are almost all rounders, so are expected to score runs. It’s important to keep in mind, although the Aussie pacemen are good and a challenge to the best batsmen they are not exactly Lillee and Thompson. .

    • Yep. I’ve already seen a lot of people simply blaming England’s lack of preparation for the defeats i.e. “now we’ve warmed up we’re miles better than the Windies!” etc. It’s all very depressing. From heroes to zero to heroes again.

  • I fear that “we won one test, so that’s all right, then” has already started. Sinecures for the Ashes? Hopeless.

  • When Root used to make a half-century virtually every innings he used to get castigated for his conversion rate.

    Now that he either fails or gets a hundred presumably those people are happy!

  • Reality: England fall to 5th in the rankings and will find qualifying for the first WTC final at Lord’s extremely difficult with a defeat against the world No.8 on the books.

    Media: we’ve learnt so much for the Ashes…. oh look, Joe’s back in the top five batsmen (just don’t ask where the rest are)…. who said getting to the top of the Test rankins is something we were that bothered about anyway?….

    • Luckily for England, the World Test Championship actually starts after the World Cup. And does not include yet another achievable whitewash in Australia since that is not part of the cycle (unless the Australian Ashes get moved forward by a year).

      And since they have handpicked their opponents themselves, qualifications should be quite achievable.


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