BRISBANE: Captain Joe Root says says England’s squad can win the big moments to secure an Ashes win in Australia and that he’d be foolish not to understand this series will define him.
Set for a third tour and second as captain - his first was his first overseas tour as skipper - Root will walk out at the Gabba on Wednesday as the world’s top-ranked Test batter in rare form. His 1455 runs in 12 matches at an average of 66.13 are already the fourth-most by an English batter in a calendar year, while he’s poised to overtake Alastair Cook as the country’s most-capped skipper in Sydney’s fourth Test.But he’s yet to score a Test hundred in Australia and England, regularly humbled in Australian conditions for the past 30 years, are chasing their first Ashes series win away from home in a decade. “Absolutely it is, you look at how hard it has been for English captains and English teams over the years,” Root, who led a team that lost 4-0 in Australia’s last home Ashes series, said. “It’s been something that doesn’t happen very often. Of course it will define my captaincy - I’m not naive enough to think that it won’t - but again, what a great opportunity.”In his favour is the return of allrounder Ben Stokes, who showed form with bat and ball in last week’s warm-up game in an important first step back after a break from cricket since July.James Anderson and Stuart Broad offer vast knowledge of Australian conditions for their pace battery that could include any of Mark Wood, Chris Woakes and Ollie Robinson. Root is yet to settle on his side, refusing to bite when asked if he would select an all-out pace attack for a Gabba green-top and leave out spinner Jack Leach. England haven’t won a Test at Brisbane’s ‘Gabbatoir’ since 1986 and will need to conquer those psychological demons to avoid another potentially fatal start to their Ashes campaign on Wednesday.But there is a glimmer of hope for Root’s men, despite their notoriously poor record at the formidable Gabba ground, where England have claimed just two Test victories since the end of World War II.
It comes courtesy of India, who pulled off a stunning three-wicket upset in January, snapping Australia’s undefeated red-ball streak in the Queensland capital stretching back to 1988.
“Look at that India team that won at the Gabba. They were a long way from their first-choice XI but they had no fear,” skipper Root said ahead of his departure for Australia.
“They stood up to Australia and won crucial parts of that Test. It will give every player in our squad a huge amount of confidence and just plant a little bit of doubt in Australia’s mind.
A key difference, however, was that India achieved the feat while battle-hardened after months in Australia through Twenty20 and one-day series, before three preceding Tests.
In contrast, England approach the opening Test with limited red-ball preparation, hampered by the weather, and on a pitch whose extra pace and bounce should give the home side a distinct advantage.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, not even England’s vociferous Barmy Army supporters will be there in mass numbers at the 42,000-capacity cauldron to help their team.
Brisbane’s Woolloongabba Ground — an Aboriginal word for ‘fighting place’, commonly known just by its shortened name — has long been an intimidating fortress and traditionally a theatre of nightmares for England teams.
They have won there only four times — twice in the 1930s, once against the Kerry Packer-weakened 1978-79 Australians and 35 years ago during the heyday of Ian Botham.