Root draws on Ashes torment to offer Aussies advice
Having been on the receiving end from Mitchell Johnson in 2013-14, Joe Root has some ideas of what he expects the Aussies to be in for
Andrew Ramsey at Headingley
21 August 2019, 11:15 PM AEST
England captain Joe Root has provided an unlikely source of advice to Australia's batters as they formulate plans to combat the pace threat posed by Jofra Archer, and cited his own experiences against fearsome fast bowling in previous Ashes contests as evidence.
Root was on his first Test tour to Australia in the southern summer of 2013-14 when he encountered Mitchell Johnson at his most hostile, as England were humbled 5-0.
During the course of that series, Root was elevated from the middle-order to the key batting berth at number three in a bid to quell Johnson's influence but struggled in the face of the onslaught and was dropped for the final Test in Sydney.
Root would later admit the feeling of being axed from the England line-up, after labouring almost two hours to scratch together 24 on Boxing Day at the MCG, was one that he never again wanted to experience, and which motivated him to become a better player.
Now that he has Johnson-esque firepower at his fingertips following Archer's exhilarating Test debut at Lord's last week, he has revealed some of the traps into which he fell during that 2013-14 series as his technique and temperament were picked apart.
And the 28-year-old, who on Thursday will lead England on to his Yorkshire home ground for the first time in an Ashes Test, has counselled his rivals who might be feeling similarly under siege due to the hype surrounding Archer to tune out.
"For me, at that point, I was 13 or 14 Test matches into my career and I got sucked into listening to the external noise (suggesting) I wasn't getting forward enough," Root said on the eve of the third Ashes Test at Headingley.
"I probably should have thought about getting back a bit more. I was trying to get the balance right between a good stride in and getting out of the way.
"I probably got a bit confused in trying to work on improving my game too much rather than making my strengths as good as they could be.
"One of the lessons I learned out of that was just going back to what's held me in good stead, but it might not work for others.
"There might be things that certain batters in this series have to change drastically to cope with Jofra."
If that proves to be the case, there exists very few opportunities for those changes to be formulated and implemented.
The three-day break between the second and third Tests effectively means just one major training session for the touring team, with match-eve traditionally an optional outing at which the quicks don't attend and where the batters who attend face local net bowlers.
The schedule shows a slightly longer hiatus between the third and fourth Tests (eight days, including a three-day tour match against Derbyshire) with another bare minimum three-day turnaround between the fourth and final Tests.
As Root noted, the pressing need for batters to make changes to the way they play if they are struggling to cope with pace such as that of Johnson and Archer is compromised by the limited window in which those alterations can be fitted.
And that's when the constant advice, much of it well intentioned, becomes a compounding issue.
"It can alter your practice and the way you prepare," Root said.
"You are trying to make sure you are really comfortable against that style of bowling."
Kevin Pietersen, Root's teammate and England's leading runs scorer in that 2013-14 series, revealed this week that it was possible to train for the impending challenge of fast bowling during the course of a hectic tour.
Pietersen said that when he made his first Ashes visit to Australia in 2006-07 (which also resulted in a 5-0 whitewash to Australia) he spent most mornings in front of a bowling machine that fired short-pitched deliveries towards him at high speed.
"I'd get the coaches to set up a bouncing machine with hard balls at 90 miles per hour and I'd just stand there and face it," he wrote in his online blog of the campaign in which he also top-scored for England.
"I'd get hit occasionally, but I was just getting myself completely used to facing that type of bowling."
Root pointed out that the other essential factor in his 2013-14 torment was the role played by Johnson's new-ball partner, Ryan Harris.
Bowling at pace but also able to move the ball in the air and off the seam, Harris provided the perfect foil and his 22 wickets at 19.32 allowed his partner to operate at peak speed in short spells, from which Johnson captured 37 wickets at 13.97.
England's captain sees a similarly vital support role being performed by Stuart Broad who not only brings vastly greater Test experience than his rookie fellow quick, but poses a potentially greater threat than Archer when the ball is shiny and hard.
"It changes a lot of batters' approach towards our attack as well," Root said of the new dynamic that has been created for his captaincy by Archer's stunning arrival.
"It brings a number of the other guys more into the game, if you like, in a strange way.
"Stuart Broad has picked up ten wickets this series already, so there are comparisons throughout this series so far and that one (2013-14) that align themselves.
"But there's a long way to go yet, and we've seen a big momentum shift between these first two Test matches and there's still two more to go after this one.
"In terms of Jofra, managing him well and wisely, and me personally figuring out how to get the best out of him is going to be really important throughout the rest of these three games."
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), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia beat England by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: Match drawn at 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