Harsh lessons for attack minded England captain Root

When England appointed Joe Root as the new Test captain back in February, there were few pundits and fans who argued with the decision. After all, who else was there? And Root was England’s talisman and best player. Root was the England management’s only real viable choice.

Fast forward a few months, and Root is finding out the hard way that the decisions you take as a captain can have consequences, and as former captains like Nasser Hussain can testify, the decisions you take can be used as a big stick to beat you with when things start going wrong, and the media turns on you.

Root has already – by his own admission – made a huge mistake in the 1st Test of the current Ashes series, when he took Jimmy Anderson off after bowling just 3 Overs with the second new ball in the 1st innings when he had the Aussies 7 wickets down, and still over 80 runs behind England’s 1st innings total.

Fair enough, Root held his hands up to that one and admitted his mistake. Moving onto the 2nd Test, and another dodgy looking decision from Root, who after winning the toss (again), this time rather surprisingly asked the Aussies to bat first – click here for bookmakers offering the latest odds on the Ashes.

I’d not heard one ex player or pundit who said pre match that it would be a good idea to bowl first on the pitch, quite the opposite in fact. The likes of Michael Vaughan were quick to point out that as it was a drop in wicket, it was a trip into the unknown. No one had any real idea of how the wicket would behave, and Vaughan commented that you wouldn’t want to be batting on it 4th – exactly what England will now have to do after deciding to bowl first.

Quite a risky strategy when the series was arguably in the balance. It is obvious if England lose in Adelaide, it will be near on impossible to come back from 2-0 down, especially with Perth to come next. So why take such a risk at such a critical juncture of the series?

Root has previous in his short tenure as captain for being a touch cavalier. The 2nd Test against West Indies at Headingley back in August was one such occasion. Root’s England side were 1-0 up in the best of 3 series, and had just wrestled back control of the Test match (and with it the series) thanks to a swashbuckling 84 from Moeen Ali, ably assisted by Chris Woakes, who ended on 61 not out.

Out of nowhere Root declared the England innings on 490/8 towards the end of Day 4. West Indies seen off the remaining 6 Overs on Day 4, and with a full day’s play on Day 5 still remaining, there was ample time for the Windies to get the runs. Root had underestimated (and arguably disrespected) the Windies batting by setting them a modest target of 322 from 96 Overs.

The Windies duly knocked them off for a comfortable 5 wicket victory, putting a series win in doubt for England, especially given the English weather last summer. Root put himself in the position of been a few days worth or rain away from drawing a home series 1-1 with West Indies. Which wouldn’t have looked too clever on his CV.

Root has shown that he is prepared to improvise as a captain, and not always follow the well trodden conventional methods. I’m sure he will be a successful England captain in the long run, and these experiences will only serve to help him improve in the future.

Roland-Jones axing shows ruthless side to Joe Root

The brutal nature of top class international sport was never better highlighted than Wednesday’s axing of Toby Roland-Jones from the England team for the 2nd Test against West Indies, starting on Friday.

Roland-Jones has played just 3 Tests, taking 14 wickets at an average of 19.35, with 2 of those Test matches having been against South Africa.

In truth, Roland-Jones has done nothing wrong, but it just goes to show how tough international sport is, and from an England fans point of view, shows a more ruthless nature from the new Joe Root regime, which will surely be needed if England are to have a chance in the Ashes later this year.

In the past I would suggest that England could rightly be accused of metaphorically taking their foot off the throat when they are on top, rather than pressing down harder, like an Aussie or South African team would have.

England could easily do that against this West Indies team, but bringing Chris Woakes back at the expense of Roland-Jones suggests that England are not taking their foot off the throat. Before injury, Woakes had become one of England’s main players, so in bringing him back and not choosing to rotate or rest Anderson or Broad, England have shown they are not going to ease up.

In the latest Ashes betting, Betvictor currently have England as the 11/5 outsiders to win the Ashes outright, they have shortened slightly after the series win over South Africa. A drawn series is 6/1, with an Aussie win currently at 8/13.

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With the first Ashes test not until 23rd November, there is plenty of time for those odds to change. Australia could struggle in Bangladesh, and either side could pick up injuries, resulting in a change in the odds.

Australia will always be the favourites in their own conditions though (unless something dramatic happens), and the worldwide trend of late shows that the likes on England, Australia and India, all thrive in their home conditions, but struggle when they they tour each other’s nations, so clearly England will be up against it.

All England can do at the moment is give themselves their best chance. They have already demolished South Africa 3-1 this summer, and by getting their best XI on the field against West Indies, and being ruthless, they are demonstrating to Australia that they are not going be a pushover.