Root’s at­ten­tion to de­tail reap­ing early re­wards

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - SPORTS - ALI MARTIN at the Gabba – Guardian ser­vice

Joe Root may never be able to sport a beard as thick as the one that led to Mike Brear­ley be­ing dubbed the Ay­a­tol­lah dur­ing the 1978-79 Ashes but when it comes to as­sess­ing his first ex­pe­ri­ence of cap­tain­ing Eng­land in Aus­tralia, en­cour­ag­ing growth can be re­ported.

It was a hard-fought sec­ond day, with the ab­sorb­ing wres­tle for con­trol con­tin­u­ing to un­fold and be­lie predictions of the cricket be­ing one-way traffic on Vul­ture Street. Root’s fin­ger­prints could be found on much of what was good about Eng­land’s per­for­mance.

Like his re­turns with wil­low in hand, the end re­sult ap­pears to be as much about his metic­u­lous ap­proach to prepa­ra­tion as a good eye, with plenty of time be­fore this se­ries spent with Shane Bond, Eng­land’s short-term bowl­ing con­sul­tant, por­ing over sta­tis­tics in the search for frail­ties.

De­vel­op­ing strate­gies for each mem­ber of an op­po­si­tion is hardly rev­o­lu­tion­ary, but when such work bears fruit – as could be seen in the Aus­tralian wick­ets claimed on the sec­ond day – it is worth tipping the hat to the brains trust.

Take the dis­missal of Us­man Khawaja. When Cameron Ban­croft nicked off to Stu­art Broad in the fourth over, Root wasted lit­tle time – and cared not for the fleet­ing shine of the Kook­aburra ball – be­fore in­tro­duc­ing Moeen Ali into the at­tack.

Plum lbw

Khawaja is a dom­i­nant force on Aus­tralian soil when tak­ing on the quicks. But an achilles heel against the spin­ners, one that means he is not trusted in the sub­con­ti­nent, was iden­ti­fied by Eng­land and when Moeen ripped his first ball to the left-han­der past the out­side edge, be­fore trap­ping him plumb lbw next up, it was as much a win for the cap­tain as the bowler.

David Warner was be­ing starved of the strike, with his favoured brawny cut re­duced to a shot for one by a sweeper in the deep. Though it may have ap­peared a neg­a­tive move by Root, it preyed on ego and in at­tempt­ing to force a short-arm pull off Jake Ball, the ag­gres­sive opener could only pick out Dawid Malan at mid­wicket.

The chal­lenge of Peter Hand­scomb comes in try­ing to work out the right-han­der’s home­spun tech­nique of sit­ting deep in his crease – one that has con­fused bowlers in a promis­ing start to his Test ca­reer. Though Ball be­came the lat­est to be baf­fled dur­ing the ex­changes be­fore tea, Jimmy An­der­son found a way af­ter the break.

Best bowler

Root has the world’s No1 bowler at his dis­posal. On a day when An­der­son bowled with im­pec­ca­ble con­trol, a full straight de­liv­ery with the ball un­der­cut in re­lease crashed into the right-han­der’s pads to make it 76 for four.

As Aus­tralia’s resur­gence to 165 for four by stumps sug­gests, Root did not have it all his own way. At times Moeen seemed a touch over­bowled – Nathan Lyon, whose con­trol al­lows Aus­tralia a four-man at­tack, is clearly the su­pe­rior spin­ner at present – while Chris Woakes, af­ter a strong show­ing in the warm-ups, was not at his best.

Smith, to whom ad­di­tional leg-side cover was smartly placed to tar­get the pads, was happy to play the long game and looked ev­ery bit the world’s best player, while Shaun Marsh, a vet­eran fac­ing what is his fi­nal at­tempt at crack­ing Test cricket, was solid in sup­port of his cap­tain.

Root could not com­plain about the ef­forts of his play­ers, how­ever, with the feel­ing mu­tual af­ter stumps. “He’s been ex­cel­lent,” said Ball. “He has done a lot of re­search, he has his plans in his head and when things are quite go­ing our way, he al­ways has plan B and plan C. I can’t fault him.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.