Cap­tain op­ti­mistic his team can pros­per in Aus­tralia

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - CRICKET - DAVID CLOUGH

JOE ROOT is con­fi­dent Eng­land are ca­pa­ble of do­ing “some­thing spe­cial” in the Ashes af­ter de­liv­er­ing suc­ces­sive se­ries vic­to­ries in his first two se­ries as cap­tain.

Eng­land clinched a 2-1 win against West Indies on the back of an out­stand­ing, ca­reer-best per­for­mance from all-time lead­ing wicket-taker James An­der­son at Lord’s.

The hosts wrapped up a ninewicket suc­cess by tea on day three of the third In­vestec Test, knock­ing off a target of 107 in an un­bro­ken stand of 72 be­tween Mark Stone­man and Tom West­ley – af­ter veteran seamer An­der­son had taken 7-42 in the Windies’ 177 all out.

An­der­son took his sea­son’s tal- ly to 39, in­clud­ing his 500th Test wicket on day two here – when he became the first English­man to reach that heady land­mark, pre­vi­ously passed by only five other bowlers in cricket his­tory.

Root’s Eng­land owe much as well to the cap­tain’s own won­der­ful con­sis­tency with the bat and the all-round bril­liance of Ben Stokes, en route to vic­to­ries in five out of seven Tests against South Africa and then the Windies.

It has all put the York­shire­man in op­ti­mistic mood for the Ashes win­ter ahead.

“It has been great,” he said. “We’ve played some re­ally good stuff this sum­mer.”

Eng­land had to dig deep af­ter sec­ond-Test de­feats in each se­ries, and Root added: “There were two dif­fi­cult weeks, but what is most pleas­ing is the re­silience and char­ac­ter to come back from both of those with two ex- tra strong per­for­mances. That is great to see for what is go­ing to be a very chal­leng­ing win­ter.”

There are quib­bles nonethe­less about the readi­ness of Stone­man, West­ley and Dawid Malan in a top five which re­mains un­cer­tain de­spite the banker pres­ence of Root and Alas­tair Cook.

“Plenty of chal­lenges lie ahead – but with those chal­lenges come great opportunities,” he said.

“We should not be afraid of go­ing over there (to Aus­tralia), per­form­ing at our best and (trying to) do some­thing spe­cial.

“We have all the at­tributes to go down there and put in a strong per­for­mance and get good re­sults.”

Root is adamant progress has been made through­out Eng­land’s ranks.

“I’m ex­tremely happy with the way the whole group is shap­ing up,” he said. “Across the sum­mer, a num­ber of guys have stepped up and taken their games for­ward.

“Guys that have been set­tled in the team keep kick­ing on and con­tribut­ing con­sis­tently, and mak­ing them­selves more of a pres­ence in world cricket.

“A num­ber of guys have stood up, com­ing into the Test arena.”

An­der­son has had a won­der­ful sea­son, even by his unique stan­dards.

“He does [seem to be bowl­ing bet­ter than ever],” said Root.

“He said at start of the sum­mer he is des­per­ate to carry on while he can, and this year has shown what he is still ca­pa­ble of.

“Putting in his ca­reer-best fig­ures shows he is still des­per­ate to kick on and do more great things in this game.”

Eng­land can be es­pe­cially re­as­sured by 35-year-old An­der­son’s re­sponse af­ter he was left out of the fi­nal match in In­dia last win­ter.

“That was a long, dif­fi­cult tour,” said Root.

“This sum­mer he has come back...and he is one of most skil­ful bowlers I have ever played with.

“The con­trol he has when the ball is do­ing a min­i­mal amount, or when it is hoop­ing around, is re­mark­able – he can find the op­ti­mum amount of pace to work on dif­fer­ent sur­faces and put real pres­sure on the bat­ters.

“This sum­mer has been un­real for him, but I wouldn’t say I’m sur­prised how it has turned out.”

JAMES AN­DER­SON: The seamer took 7-42 for Eng­land against West Indies.

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