The England skipper's Adelaide roots

01 December 2017
Our voices

A look back at a defining moment of Joe Root's early career in the city where tomorrow he'll lead his country in the second Ashes Test

About the Writer:

Andrew Ramsey is the senior writer for He previously wrote for the Guardian, The Australian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Hindu and Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and the author of The Wrong Line.

As the Adelaide crow flies, only five kilometres separates the city's Test match venue from the playing ground of Prospect District Cricket Club in the inner northern suburbs but in terms of the game's global pecking order they are effectively half a world apart.

However, the link between the venue better known as the home turf of the North Adelaide Roosters football club and the scene of the second Magellan Ashes Test starting tomorrow is as curious as it is strong.

Prospect is the club at which England's current Test captain Joe Root spent a five-month stint as a teenager in the summer of 2010-11, while a scholarship holder at a cricket academy run by former Australia batsman and incumbent Bupa Support Team men's coach, Darren Lehmann.

Apart from being regularly mistaken as a member of one of Prospect's under-16 team during his time there, the baby-faced Yorkshire boy is remembered by the club that boasts a proud pedigree of hosting international stars as an obvious talent whose style outshone his statistics.

"From the moment he stepped on to the centre wicket you could tell he was a player of absolute class," Prospect's long-serving former secretary David Callan told today.

"He was a David Gower sort of player – that angelic look and just a beautiful technique when he picked up a bat."

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Lehmann was aware of Root when the latter was but a lad with clear potential and a fixture in junior development squads in his home county of Yorkshire, where Lehmann played for years as a beloved overseas professional.

When the teenager gained a berth at the Darren Lehmann Cricket Academy, in a cohort that also included leg spinner Scott Borthwick (who earned a Test cap during the 2013-14 Ashes summer) and now retired Essex batter Jaik Mickleburgh, Root was assigned to Prospect where the Academy now conducts much of its training.

A teenaged Root bats for England U19s in 2010 // Getty
A teenaged Root bats for England U19s in 2010 // Getty

"I had a few sessions with him, he's a good young man and he's turned out to be a pretty bloody good player," Lehmann told today when asked for his recollections of Root when he was at the DLCA.

"Coming from Yorkshire and knowing him from a 'wee snapper', as they would say over there, he's developed into a really good cricketer.

"His thirst for the game, even at that age you could see he was quite driven to represent not only Yorkshire, but obviously England.

"You see that drive in certain players and it's probably fair to say he's exceeded his own expectations."

The stark red-brick clubhouse at Prospect Oval, a ground set at an odd angle within the meticulous grid pattern that separates genteel North Adelaide from the city's blue-collar industrial sprawl, showcases a gallery of former greats who have gone on to win interstate or international honours.

In addition to home-grown talent the likes of Tim Wall, Jeff Hammond and Greg Blewett along with out-of-town recruits Ashley Mallett, Terry Jenner, Rodney Hogg and Gary Cosier, Prospect proudly displays its ties to a pair of all-time greats – South Africa's Barry Richards and West Indies allrounder Sir Garfield Sobers.

Both of whom represented the club as well as the state's Sheffield Shield in the days when it was led by ex-Test skipper Ian Chappell.

Prospect Oval also offers dual deification of Barrie Robran, the Roosters' champion regarded as the greatest footballer SA has nurtured and whose cricket acumen earned him two first-class games for his state around the same time in the early 1970s that he was racking up Magarey Medals.

The fact that Root is not celebrated within Prospect's inner sanctum is because he has donned neither SA nor Australia colours, not due directly to his first-grade return of 262 runs at 29.11 with a highest score of 78 not out from 11 innings.

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And even though the now-England captain's lean form saw him finish that summer in Prospect's second XI, and his team end the season in 11th position despite their spin bowling attack being led by current Australia Test bowler Nathan Lyon, Callan claims the criteria might need to be revisited.

And a photo of the world's third-ranked batter, who boasts 13 Test match hundreds from his 61 matches at an average almost double (53.35) what he managed against Adelaide's Premier Cricket bowlers as a 19-year-old, might be added to the 93-year-old club's hall of fame.

"Certainly when Barry Richards arrived at Prospect, he was already a world-class player and there was nothing he really needed to add to his game in Australian conditions," Callan said.

"But while Joe Root clearly had the underlying skills, it was obviously part of a carefully planned cricket education that he would come out here as part of the development of his game.

"Just watching the way he batted when he was here, it was no surprise to any of us that he went on to become one of the top six Test batsmen in the world."

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Root carries equally fond memories of his time in Adelaide, which served as an unlikely precursor to his Test call up during England's tour of India two years later.

And coincided with the summer in which Andrew Strauss's men became the first England touring team in 25 years to win an Ashes campaign in Australia.

In addition to playing alongside Lyon who was at that time was working as a member of the Adelaide Oval ground staff, Root faced rival quicks the calibre of ex-Test bowler Peter George, Kane Richardson and Chadd Sayers and claimed the wicket of Jake Lehmann with his off-spin.

The now 26-year-old retains a strong enduring friendship with the Fisher family with whom he boarded during his stay, visiting his Aussie "mum" Tiffany whenever he returns to Adelaide in gratitude for the cooking and laundering she undertook for her five-month house guest.

"(I) made some really good friends and shared some good memories," Root told reporters in Adelaide today as he prepared to lead his team on to the historic Adelaide Oval tomorrow.

"I really enjoyed the city, and working very hard at the Lehmann academy. 

"It's quite funny how things work out, isn't it? 

"At 19 I was at his academy and now we're in an Ashes series where he is coach of the opposition side. 

"It was a really good experience, on the back of it I made my County Championship debut (for Yorkshire) the following season and the work I did over here and all the stuff that winter… it set me up for the following summer and was instrumental in my development.

"And for that – for all the hard work people did at the Academy and the club, and all the experiences that I had from it, I'm extremely grateful."

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21