Handscomb to get to the Root of Ashes rival

Victorian hoping to learn from Joe Root - and uncover the England captain's weaknesses - during Yorkshire stint

Like countless Australian batsmen before him, Peter Handscomb’s summer abroad in England is firstly about enhancing his skills in foreign conditions and gaining valuable match practice during the southern hemisphere’s winter months.

And while those age-old objectives are ever-important for Handscomb in his stint with Yorkshire, he admits spotting the technical weaknesses of his soon-to-be Ashes nemeses could be an added bonus of his spell abroad.

Instead of playing a second season with Indian Premier League franchise Rising Pune Supergiant, the Victorian, who made his Test debut against South Africa in November, opted to take up an offer at a club currently home to nine past or present England internationals, including new Test captain Joe Root.

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Training and playing alongside the likes of Root and record-breaking wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow first and foremost affords Handscomb the chance to improve his own game.

But if doing that also helps him glean the odd technical deficiency that could give Australia some small edge in their bid to reclaim the urn on home soil this coming summer, all the better.

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"You’re playing with guys you’re going to play against a little later on in the year," Handscomb told from Leeds this week. 

"When you’re playing with them, you’re asking questions and you’re watching how they go about it. 

"You’re trying to pick up their game to potentially learn something for yourself. 

"But also, further on down the track you might notice a weakness that you’ll be able to exploit for your own benefit. 

"(But) there’s very few secrets left in world cricket. It’s just about how everyone adapts to each challenge that’s thrown at them."

For a right-hander just shy of six feet (183cm) tall, strong off the back foot and with a ‘wrist-cocked’ stance, there’s arguably no better player on earth to learn how to bat in English conditions than Joe Root. 

Born within four months of one another, the pair share a number of similarities in both stature and technique.

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Root, of course, has the advantage of nearly 150 more matches at international level, and Handscomb says the 92-run stand they shared during a one-day game against Nottinghamshire last week gave him a meaningful glimpse into his fellow 26-year-old’s batting mastery.

"I had a good hit with him, put on a nice little partnership,” the Victorian said. “I had a little bit of time out in the middle with him. 

"It just seems that he understands his game but also has a great awareness of what other bowlers are trying to do.

"He just seems to read cricket very well. 

"He knew the Notts bowlers quite well because most of them had played for England. He was giving me a few tips on (them); ‘if they bowl a slower ball, the next ball will be a certain ball’. 

"Pretty much 99 per cent of the time he was right. 

"(Our batting techniques) are not too dissimilar, I guess. 

"We’ve both got our bats high and our wrists cocked. He’s got a little bit more of a pre-movement before he plays the ball."

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Handscomb struck 46 before being caught down the leg side in that seven-wicket victory over Nottinghamshire, and two days later he followed it up with a match-winning 86 against rivals Lancashire.

Yorkshire are in the midst of a run of eight 50-over matches before their next four-day County Championship clash later this month.

And although the next away Ashes series is still more than two years away, Handscomb knows every red-ball match in English conditions helps to prepare him for the type of seaming wickets that have recently troubled Australia and seen them fail in their past four attempts on English soil.

"Playing Division One cricket in England is a great learning curve, especially for the Ashes in 2019," he said, before insisting, "but that's not really something I'm thinking about now.

"I think what it does do is, when I go back to Australia and a wicket is seaming around a little bit, I'll hopefully have an understanding of what to do considering I will have had a full season in England. 

"Knowing you've done that before gives you that self-belief."

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