Root fires, but fails to kick conversion issue
The problem that England's captain sought Ricky Ponting out for help with last summer becomes apparent again in Ashes series opener
Sam Ferris in Birmingham
3 August 2019, 06:56 AM AEST
Joe Root's issues converting fifties to hundreds continued Friday as the England captain was dismissed for his 42nd Test half-century.
A brilliant return catch by Peter Siddle, who flung out his right hand to intercept a bunted straight drive, ended Root's innings on 57 in the afternoon session of day two of the first Test at Edgbaston.
Root now has 16 Test centuries and 42 half-centuries for a conversion rate of 27.6 per cent (100s divided by 50-plus scores x 100).
While the right-hander is one of the premier Test batsmen in the world, his conversion rate pales in comparison to the likes of his peers Virat Kohli (55.56 per cent), who has 25 hundreds and 20 half-centuries and Ashes adversary Steve Smith (50 per cent), who posted his 24th Test century a day earlier.
Sir Donald Bradman has the highest conversion rate of any batsman, scoring a century 69 per cent of the time he passed 50.
Root looked to have gone some way to overcoming the issue that he approached former Test captain Ricky Ponting for help with during the Australian summer, having converted his last three Test fifties to centuries after missing out in his previous 11 innings.
But it returned in Birmingham, where he was out nine balls after saluting a packed, vocal crowd applauding his 42nd half-century.
During his three-week stint KFC Big Bash stint with the Sydney Thunder last summer, Root sought the advice of Australia's all-time leading run-scorer Ponting of how to balance his uneven batting record.
"For me, (his conversion rate issue has) 100 per cent just got to be a mental hurdle that he can't quite get over, and the more you start thinking about little things like that, the harder they are to put them out of your mind," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"I'm sure every time he gets to 50 now, the next 50 runs he scores will probably be the hardest runs he ever scores when it should be the other way around; the first 50 should be the hardest and the second fifty be the easiest, but it always looks like it's just getting a little bit more difficult for him.
"But like I said (to him), if he keeps putting himself in that situation enough where he gets to that fifty mark, it won't be long before he starts turning them into hundreds."
Former England Test captain Mike Atherton agrees with Ponting that Root's conversion rate issue is purely mental.
Of Root's 16 Test hundreds, 10 have been worth 130 or more with two double centuries and a 190 against South Africa at Lord's in 2017, which indicates he is capable of posting big totals and spending long periods of time at the crease.
But Atherton believes Root's mindset of needing to score a century each time he walks to the crease, with his poor conversion rate record in the back of his mind, could be crippling.
What Atherton does not want to see is Root to go into his shell to counteract his troubles with reaching three figures.
"I know a batsman's job is to make hundreds in Test cricket, I know that," Atherton said on Sky Sports shortly after Root was dismissed.
"But if you're batting like that at the crease with that (conversion rate problem) constantly in your mind it can be an inhibition.
"I think you’ve just got to play naturally. The best players have always taken calculated risks at the crease.
"I don't want Joe Root to just become a defensive player trying to grind out runs all the time.
"Equally he'll know 57 is not the kind of score that wins a Test match. He made a mistake and paid for it."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.
Tour match: Australians v Worcestershire, August 7-9
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval