DON’T LET AUSSIES KNOCK US OUT
Root knows they’d love to drive final nail into Poms’ coffin
‘Man for man, I’d have this team every day over the Australians’
Joe Root will go into the World Cup clash against Australia with an unequivocal message for england’s struggling cricketers: don’t let this lot knock us out.
Games between the teams have never needed extra context to get the juices flowing. But a combination of last summer’s ‘Moral Ashes’, the recent sight of Australia captain Pat Cummins unable to stifle a grin when asked about england’s plight, and the prospect of the old enemy driving the final nail into the Poms’ coffin has made defeat tomorrow unthinkable.
England, of course, are clinging on to their title by the thinnest of threads after five defeats in six games. And they could yet be knocked out before their match with Australia is over — though that would need Afghanistan to beat the Netherlands today, and New Zealand to see off Pakistan in Saturday’s earlier match.
But england still have Champions Trophy qualification to play for, which will require a top-eight finish. Above all, perhaps, there is the question of pride, as they try to relocate the white-ball gusto that made them double world champions.
‘We’ve got three opportunities to get back to that,’ said Root. ‘ What better stage to do it, hopefully, than against Australia? I don’t think any other motivator is required, really.
‘Man for man, I’d have this team every day over the Australians. We might not have played as well as we can but we know when we play our best stuff the best teams struggle to compete with us.’
The obvious retort is england, bottom of the 10-team table, have spent the last month plumbing the depths rather than scaling the heights — so much so that Cummins, smiling broadly, said England’s defeat by Sri Lanka in Bangalore last week had been ‘sad to see’.
Root sounded less amused. ‘Let’s face it, if it was the other way around, would we be doing the same?’ he said. ‘Probably. It hurts to be in this position, sat at the bottom of the table. It’s not what we expect of ourselves. But if it motivates us a little bit more, then great.’
Root himself has faded badly along with england’s chances. After scores of 77 against New Zealand and 82 against Bangladesh, he has made 11, two, three and — courtesy of what he believes was a controversial leg- before against India in Lucknow — a duck.
‘I feel really good in my game so it’s been frustrating,’ he said. ‘I’ve had a silly run-out, a caught at leg slip, which is pretty unusual in this format and — I’ll be careful how I say this — a dubious lbw decision.
‘I looked at the situation against India on that wicket and thought it was laid out perfectly for me to go and win us the game. Saturday is another opportunity to go and score some runs, do what I expect of myself and what the team expect of me.’
Australia’s charge towards the semi-finals, meanwhile, received another blow when all-rounder Mitchell Marsh flew home for personal reasons.
He told team-mates he intends to return to India ‘to win this World Cup’, but the news came after the big-hitting Glenn Maxwell was ruled out of the england game with concussion after he fell off the back of a golf buggy.