Ashes 2015: Joe Root Leaves Australia's Bowlers With No Margin For Error
The England No. 5 was in such brilliant form in the first Ashes Test at Cardiff it appeared like he was striking a beach ball at times but don't be fooled into thinking Australia underestimated him
In Joe Root we are seeing a batsman who is blossoming on the international stage and at this point in time I don't think any team has found a genuine way to knock him over. The margin for error when bowling to him is so small. When guys are out of nick, the area on the pitch the quicks need to hit can be the size of a beach towel. With Joe right now, it's barely a handkerchief. (Bayliss Warns England To Expect An Australian Backlash)
The first Test in Cardiff saw Joe make a statement for the series. That century on day one, when he came in at 43 for three, showed what his game is all about: positive intent. Being dropped second ball was quickly erased from the memory and the hundred he peeled off from there was clinical in that he took the attacking option whenever Australia's bowlers strayed even fractionally. (Lehmann Confident of Quick Aussie Turnaround)
Joe is seeing it like a beach ball, sure, but he is also getting into a very good position at the point of delivery and it is good thing for any young batsman to learn from. Look at some of the stills from that innings for a how-to guide on setting yourself. His weight is on the back foot but you can see he is lightly on the front too, looking to push forward and meet the ball on his terms. (England Leave Australia With Much to Ponder)
Don't be fooled into thinking Australia underestimated him going into this series on the basis of what happened 18 months ago. I know for a fact that they rate Root incredibly highly. But as an overall observation, I thought they were too quick to abort Plan A - top of off stump or just around - when they strayed and went for a couple of boundaries. They didn't realise that it wasn't the plan that was the issue but the execution.
Compare and contrast that with England, who knew to pitch the ball up and be patient on that surface. The line and length was key and, bar a clever tactic to Steve Smith, where they hung the ball outside off stump, they bowled predominantly straight. We saw batsmen bowled, lbw or nicking off playing from the crease, which tells me they got the length bang on. (Lehmann Hints at Australia Changes)
That's where you have to give credit to a bowler like Stuart Broad. In the past, like Australia's bowlers in Cardiff, he has been slightly guilty of mixing it up if Plan A didn't quite work out, like switching to around the wicket and bowling bouncers with two men out on the hook. But he got reward for sticking to full length and that is what Australia have to learn on these English pitches, where it is better to be too full than too short.
We even saw England employ what we know at Headingley as the "Yorkshire Wall", with fielders stationed short in front of the batsman for a gun-barrel straight line. That is good awareness by the bowlers and a feather in the cap of Alastair Cook. Without wanting to bring up eye-watering memories for the England captain, the moment he copped one in the sensitive parts was telling too.
There was his vice-captain, Root, comfortable enough to have a good old laugh with his senior down in pain. It might not have been Cook's happiest time on a cricket field but it told me that England have fostered an environment where players feel relaxed enough to enjoy the lighter moments. We know Joe is a cheeky chap, of course - a real card in the dressing room.
Don't let that mask what a determined young cricketer he is though. Joe takes his game very seriously and is striving for improvement all the time. He is ideal to work with as a coach because he demands full, honest feedback on his game - not simply what he would like to hear. That, mixed with his upbeat style, is why I think it was a very shrewd move by the England director of cricket, Andrew Strauss, to give him the vice-captaincy at the start of the summer.
His attitude is quite infectious in a team and now he can combine that with the extra responsibility. When I arrived at Yorkshire in early 2012 he was relatively new in his cricket career, opening in four-day cricket and No3 in Twenty20. But he was also one of the voices driving our side to take the positive option at all times. Paul Farbrace, who is the England assistant coach now, was working with us at the time and I know those two spoke at length about this approach.
The Australian mentality is to put your best batsman at No3 in Test cricket but there is plenty of time for Joe to return up the order naturally. And besides, Gary Ballance showed in the first innings, with his hard-fought 61, that he is not going anywhere soon. He has been copping it a bit of late but I have no doubt he will have a fine international career because he is a quality player.
Overall, I don't think the Cardiff result has thrown a cat among the pigeons, because I have been saying all along that England are a very good emerging side. The message to Australia, who I know will look to right a few wrongs at Lord's, is to keep faith with the bowling plans and not lose patience. Because that is where the first Test in Cardiff was won and lost.