By Stephen Giles
- Kevin Pietersen envisages a tough series but confident England can win
- Can Joe Root continue his fine form against the nation he has struggled against?
- 1st Investec Ashes Test Match takes place between 8-12 July, in Cardiff
CARDIFF, UK – With one day until the Ashes get underway, the golden boy of English cricket, Joe Root needs to play a pivotal role for England for them to have any chance of regaining the Ashes, according to a former player.
Love him or loathe him, Kevin Pieterson admitted a tough series lay ahead for BOTH teams but believed England could triumph, although, a substantial chunk of that hinges on the form of Yorkshireman Root, who he sees as the vital component in England’s attempts to win back the Ashes.
Pietersen said: “This is going to be a very tough series, but that’s not to say we can’t beat Australia, far from it. A great deal, however, relies on the form of the three players Australia will be most concerned about: Jimmy Anderson and Alastair Cook but mainly Joe Root”
Much has been made of Root, who averages 54.1 in Test Match cricket, as he has often been one to struggle against the Australians. He averages 33.1 against this summer’s opponents, boosted slightly by the 180 he notched up at Lords in the home series, in 2013.
In Australia, Root was often heralded as the answer to England’s opening batting hoodoo. Nevertheless, his weakness to pace and the Australian bowlers constant probing outside his off-stump was highlighted, which saw Root moved around the order until he was ultimately replaced by Gary Ballance for the fifth and final test – with England 4-0 down going into Sydney.
Nasser Hussain, England captain from 1999 to 2003, said of Root:
“I always look at the character of someone when they’ve been left out, how they react – do they go away and moan or get their head down and improve?”
Eighteen-months later and Root has averaged 82.37 within that period which has firmly established himself as an international player. His added energy and batting authority has been seen to rub off on those batting around him. He is one of the form-players in world cricket right now and has widely been tipped by experts as an England captain in the making.
Pietersen added: “Over the last year or so we’ve seen him transform from a young man with vast potential to a proven match winner and his form will be vital if we’re going to reclaim the Urn”
Team-mate of Root’s, Chris Jordan added: “He’s putting in so much work behind the scenes to maintain this form and I can only see it continuing.
‘We’ve got lots of talented players, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell and a captain (Alastair Cook) who is in brilliant form and they will all be needed. It won’t be solely down to Joe but if he continues batting the way he is I can’t see why it can’t be anything other than a win.”
Root will want to prove he has unfinished business to contend with. He, an in-form Cook, and James Anderson will look to ignite the hosts for what will be a roller-coaster summer, and another stern examination of their credentials.