Cricket: Young Root growing into a problem

By David Leggat

It was a remark which almost slipped by unnoticed.

Ross Taylor, looking to the task ahead of New Zealand's bowlers at Eden Park tomorrow, stressed the need for early wickets to put England's highly regarded batting lineup under some pressure.

"In saying that, we don't want Root to get [in] early," he said. "He's been batting really well."

Had Taylor said Cook, Bell, Trott or Morgan it would have resonated louder, they being established top-class operators in the England order. But Joe Root?

It says something for the immediate impact the young Yorkshireman has made on tour.

First it was Jos Buttler who has been putting the hurt on New Zealand's bowlers since the tour began in Whangarei this month.

Now in the two ODIs of the ANZ international series Root has also cleared his throat, announcing himself to New Zealand audiences with classy half-centuries at Hamilton last weekend and in Napier on Wednesday night to continue a fine introduction to international cricket.

The pair are no strangers to New Zealand. Both were in England's team at the under-19 World Cup here in 2010.

England were eliminated by the West Indies in the quarter-final and Root's 138 tournament runs at 27.6 were far outshone by, among others, New Zealand team members Harry Boam and Jimmy Neesham. Funny old game.

But Root, who hails from Sheffield, is making rapid progress. He's 22, looks a few years younger, but is attracting glowing talk as English batting's next big thing.

His first-class debut also came in 2010, he's done his time in the England Lions, before being chosen for the tour to India before Christmas. Root has also been analysed to a high degree by England's management: technical, mental, physical, all bases being ticked.

India was to be a learning experience, but Root was chosen for the final test at Nagpur, where a draw was needed for a series win. Root did his part with 73 over 289 minutes and 222 balls, the sixth-longest debut innings for England in terms of balls faced.

The ODIs have shown a different side of his game which has continued in New Zealand.

In seven ODIs, he's never gone below 30, the first batsman anywhere to do so, and averages 74.5. But the key part has been the manner in which he's making his runs.

Where once former England batting great Geoff Boycott likened him to himself for his patience and resolution, he's donned a different set of clothing, in more than one sense, for the shorter form.

Quick-footed and able to get runs through 180 degrees - a frequent user of the scoop and reverse angle shots - he has proved a headache for New Zealand, with 56 in 64 balls at Hamilton, then an unbeaten 79 off 56 at Napier on Wednesday night where he made full use of a terrific batting strip.

He was dropped twice, by Taylor and New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, an awkward skier, but for all that it was a cracking innings, full of enterprise.

"He's busy," McCullum said. "He's almost Australian-like in his presence at the crease [this, by the way, intended as a huge compliment]. He calls very loud, puts pressure on the field.

"His role in the lineup is to try and create some momentum for those guys to come in after. He's played well so far and we've got to come up with some strategies to counter him."

Even England's ODI coach, former test spinner Ashley Giles, has been pleasantly surprised by Root's rapid progress.

"I didn't know he could bat as well as he has," Giles said after the Indian trip. "He just looks at home and he's the sort of player with which English cricket is in good hands."

Root's captain, Alastair Cook, reckoned in Napier Root "played shots which I didn't know he could play. He's got all the right things to make him a really good player."

No pressure, then, but the early signs are hugely encouraging for England.

- NZ Herald

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