Joe Root: England are better than Australia man for man despite World Cup woes

By Sports Desk November 02, 2023

Joe Root is feeling bullish ahead of England’s weekend clash with Australia, claiming he would “have this team every day” over their rivals despite wildly differing fortunes at the World Cup.

The Ashes adversaries meet on Saturday at Ahmedabad’s 130,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium, which will also host the tournament final on November 19.

Only one of the two teams has any prospect of making it that far, with England propping up the table in 10th place after one win in six while Australia appear set fair for the knockouts after four victories.

But Root refuses to believe a side who came in as defending champions and well fancied to defend their crown have slipped as far as the standings suggest.

“Man for man, I’d have this team every day over the Australians,” he said, with an air of confidence that has largely eluded England since they touched down in India.

“We might not have played as well as we can do but we know when we play our best stuff the best teams struggle to compete with us.

“I look at this team and it’s more than capable of achieving way more than it has done throughout this tournament. With the quality of players we have, we should be sat right at the top of this (table). We all know that and we’re all very frustrated that isn’t the case.

“We’ve just got to look at Saturday as our World Cup final and play in the manner that’s expected of us and we expect of ourselves. We have massively underachieved to date and have three opportunities to show the world what we are capable of doing and what I know we are capable of doing.”

The statistical head-to-head makes for grim reading, with Australia boasting five centuries to England’s one, 61 sixes to England’s 27 and 47 wickets taken to England’s 36.

Australian leg-spinner Adam Zampa has taken 16 scalps, exactly twice as many as opposite number Adil Rashid.

But Root is relying on the competitive juices that come with every meeting between these two teams to drag his side out of their torpor.

England were 2-0 behind after the first two Tests of this year’s Ashes series but rallied to dominate the next three games and would surely have improved on a 2-2 draw had rain not intervened at Old Trafford.

“One thing that the Ashes does is, we’ve played a lot of cricket against a number of their players. If we can use that in a positive way then we have to take it into the game,” he said.

“You can always recall little things that can work in your favour. If it helps you feel good about yourself and you can be ready to use to your advantage, then absolutely.”

Relations between the teams were strained at times during the Test summer, not least over Jonny Bairstow’s controversial run out at Lord’s, and the battle lines remain drawn.

A press conference clip of Australia captain Pat Cummins smirking and suppressing giggles as he contemplated England’s World Cup struggles has been duly noted but has not raised Root’s hackles.

“Let’s face it, if it was the other way around would we be doing the same? Probably,” he said.

“If it motivates us a little bit more, great. It hurts, but it always hurts to be in this position, sat at the bottom of the table. There is no better motivator for any group of English players than to play against the Aussies.

“From my point of view, I throw everything into giving my absolute 100 per cent for England and can look people in the eye and shake them by the hand and move onto the next game. I’ve got no animosity with any of their team.”

England trained under lights on Thursday and will go through another workout on the eve of the game as they piece together their XI. The temptation to recall Harry Brook, who performed impressively against a similar bowling attack in the Ashes, must be strong and there is a decision to make over David Willey.

He was the best bowler against India last time out but has since announced him imminent international retirement. England could decide to look long-term and switch him out for Sam Curran, but Root is clear that the awkward timing of the news is not being held against Willey.

“They are decisions to be made by the coach and the captain. Only Dave will be able to tell you how he’s come to that decision and why he’s made it now,” he said.

“But the thing you can never look past is his professionalism. He likes those big-stage games and by announcing his retirement it’s made these three games as big as they can be for him.”

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