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Finding the root of Joe's Aussie problem

England's captain and talisman has a disappointing record in Australia, but remains the key man in any potential turnaround for the tourists

Billed as one of the world's best batsmen, Joe Root is still searching for a breakthrough knock in Australia as he attempts to lead England out of trouble this Ashes.

But most alarmingly for England is their skipper's incredible first-innings output in Australia-based Tests - 69 runs from six innings at 11.5. 

Root, Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson have been widely viewed as a class above their peers in recent years.

All four of the prodigies have become captains after turning heads with the quality and quantity of their Test runs.

All four have experienced highs and lows - it was only a year ago when Smith struggled to hide his frustration after a horrible loss in Hobart led to something of an overhaul of Australian cricket.

But while Kohli and Williamson went blow for blow with Smith during century-laden tours of Australia in 2014-15 and 2015-16 respectively, Root is yet to fire a shot in Australia.

Root, in the midst of his first Test tour since Alastair Cook handed over the captaincy, is facing the greatest test of his leadership to date.

The intensity of an Ashes tour is all-consuming. Andrew Flintoff, who led England to a 5-0 loss in 2006-07, referenced it this year while describing captaincy as "the worst job" he has ever had.

ROOOT! Skipper stands tall, carries England


Root has posted two half-centuries in the current series to be England's leading run-scorer, but the right-hander knows he must deliver far more imposing innings if his team are to become the second side in Ashes history to fight back from a 2-0 deficit and win a series.

Much has been made of Root's troubles kicking on after starts; just two of his past 13 Test scores of 50-plus have been converted into tons.

But the 26-year-old's record in Australia, where he was axed from the tourists' XI during Mitchell Johnson's rampage four years ago, also paints a frank picture.

Root's average from six Tests in Australia is a tick over 30, while his first-innings returns - 2, 15, 4, 24, 15 and 9 - paint an even more sobering picture.

Root finds positives despite 0-2 series deficit


"I know I'm a good player, I know I'm going to score some runs out here," Root said after scoring nine and 67 in England's 120-run loss at Adelaide Oval.

Former England off-spinner Graeme Swann feels captaincy is the cause of Root's recent issues.

"I wish he didn't have the burden and could just be our best-ever batsman," Swann told ESPNcricinfo. "This tour will be tough on him because that pressure will build and build."

Mitchell Starc, who once shared a dressing room at Yorkshire with Root during a county stint, suggested England's captain could "come out in the next couple of games and score some big scores".

"We know how good a player he is ... he's not someone you can take lightly," Starc added.

Smith is always keen to downplay talk of the rivalry between himself, Kohli, Root and Williamson but admitted in his recently-released biography that he always keeps an eye on their scores.

ROOT CAUSE: JOE'S AUSTRALIAN ISSUE

*Overall Test average: 53.05

*Test average in Australia: 30.36

*Test average (1st inns) in Australia: 11.5

*Averages more than 53 in India, UAE, South Africa, West Indies and England

HOW TEST CAPTAINCY HAS CHANGED THE BIG FOUR:

*Steve Smith averaging 70.16 as captain, averaged 51.83 without the responsibility

*Virat Kohli averaging 67.44 as captain, averaged 41.13 without the responsibility

*Joe Root averaging 54.43 as captain, averaged 52.8 without the responsibility

*Kane Williamson averaging 56.84 as captain, averaged 49.23 without the responsibility

WHAT THE ENGLISH SAY ABOUT ROOT'S RECENT FORM:

"He is a steely cricketer. He's got a point to prove about Australia and getting a hundred in Australia," former England captain Nasser Hussain.

"Root is so frustrated that he is not getting centuries when other top players like Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson are. He knows he has to get big centuries," former England coach David Lloyd.

"He is a perfectionist ... he will be disappointed with his conversion rate, but he'll put it right," former England allrounder Ian Botham

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

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

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 Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard

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