Cricket

Published: Saturday July 4, 2015 MYT 10:32:07 AM
Updated: Saturday July 4, 2015 MYT 10:32:08 AM

Root, England's Mr Reliable, ready to make Ashes leap

LONDON (Reuters) - Firmly established in the pivotal number five position in England's batting order, Joe Root is primed for the job of taking on Australia's vaunted pace attack toe to toe.

The Yorkshireman's consistency is reflected in his statistics after 27 tests -- 2,273 runs and six centuries coming at a highly impressive average of 54.11.

Australia have, in Steve Smith, the number one batsman in the world but Root is not far behind having come of age as a test player since suffering the ignominy of being dropped for the final Ashes test on the dismal 2013-14 tour Down Under.

Since being overlooked in Sydney in January 2014, the England man is averaging more than 90 in the five-day format.

Once touted as a natural opener, a role he had mixed success with, Root has now blossomed at number five.

The blond, boyish-faced batsman enjoyed a fruitful first two years in test cricket, a maiden century coming at his home Headingley ground against New Zealand in his sixth test.

It was an innings that underlined a growing maturity as he followed the likes of Yorkshiremen Herbert Sutcliffe, Len Hutton, Geoff Boycott and Michael Vaughan, who all once batted with distinction for England.

His second test century, a brilliant 180 against Australia at Lord's, appeared to confirm that Root's natural place was opening the batting alongside Alastair Cook.

But he then endured a torrid time and was taken out of the firing line for the return series in Australia as England were handed a humiliating whitewash.

Root did score 87 in Adelaide but failed to get past 30 in seven other innings, struggling against Australia's battery of pacemen who exposed his weakness outside off stump.

Having been moved up and down the order, he was dropped for the final test in Sydney but was recalled to face Sri Lanka.

Root compiled an unbeaten 200 in the first innings at Lord's, at the age of 23 years and 165 days, to become England's youngest double centurion since David Gower in 1979.

A fine player of spin, Root has continued to thrive this season, hitting an unbeaten 182 against West Indies in Grenada in April before making 98 and 84 in the first test against New Zealand.

A dominant performance in a winning Ashes team would add further fuel to the argument that Root has the ability to be one of his country's greatest batsmen.

(Editing by Ed Osmond and Tony Jimenez)

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