Joe Root wants ‘fight and pride’ from first ball in Hobart

Published January 13, 2022
England's Joe Root walks off after losing his wicket in third Test against Australia at Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia, December 28. — Reuters
England's Joe Root walks off after losing his wicket in third Test against Australia at Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia, December 28. — Reuters

HOBART: England captain Joe Root Wednesday called on his team to harness the “fight and pride” they showed in salvaging a draw in Sydney and use it from day one at the fifth and final Test in Hobart.

The tourists staved off Australia’s victory push on Sunday with Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad batting out two tense final overs to deny Australia a fourth straight Test win in the lopsided series.

Root said the way his men clung on to avoid defeat had given them a platform for the day-night Test at Hobart starting Friday.

“On the back of three very difficult games where we underperformed ... to come back and get something from the last game showed a great amount of character and something definitely for us to build on moving forward,” he said.

But Root, England most capped skipper after breaking Alastair Cook’s record when he led his team out for a 60th time in Sydney, said they must now show the same character from the first ball and not allow Australia to take control.

“There was an element of relief managing to get through those last few overs but the desire, the fight and the pride that everyone showed on that last day is something we have to harness,” he said.

“We have to play like that more frequently through the five days, not just on the last day when everything is on the line, trying to get something from the game, but from ball one.

“We’ve proven to ourselves that we can do it, now can we take it a step further?That’s what we have to build on, that’s what we have to take from the last game and into this one.”

England head into the finale of their gruelling tour with injury concerns.

Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler has already left Australia with a fractured finger while experienced pair Jonny Bairstow (thumb) and Ben Stokes (side strain) are racing the clock to be fit.

Root said it was too early to tell if Bairstow and Stokes would be ready, with Sam Billings, Ollie Pope and Dan Lawrence potential replacements.

“We have to see where they are at, what their bodies can handle,” he said. “We need to make sure they are physically in a place where they can get through five days of hard cricket. It’s all right being fit to play but you’ve got to be fit to perform and that’s what we’ve got to work out.”

Root said England could play Stokes and Bairstow purely as batsmen in Hobart.

“Certainly can pick Ben just as a batter, absolutely, and similarly with Jonny as well,” Root said. “He’s [Bairstow] been playing as a batter anyway.”

England have plucked Billings out of the Big Bash League and added him to the squad as cover, and Root had no doubt he would perform well if given his test debut in the pink-ball contest in Hobart.

“He brings in a lot of energy. Constantly smiling, he loves his cricket,” said Root. “He’s a great guy to have around the environment and I’m sure if he gets his opportunity he’ll throw everything into his opportunity.”

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2022

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