Nestled between the contrasting but equally headline-grabbing talents of Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen, it is perhaps easy to overlook quite how crucial Jonathan Trott was to England in their brief all-conquering phase at the start of the decade.
However, ever since the 2013-14 Ashes, when Mitchell Johnson kicked Andy Flower’s carefully crafted sandcastle right in England’s face, his position at the top of the order has proved one of the hardest to replace.
Gary Ballance, despite not batting there in first-class cricket, did enjoy some success in the role before a combination of bad form and high-quality seam bowling, from both sides of the Tasman Sea, saw him dropped from the side – with the selectors deciding, on his return, that his undeniable talent was best deployed a little further down the order.
Now though it seems that in Joe Root, England might well have found the answer to their problem.
If the start of Root’s career – culminating in his dropping from the side towards the end of the horror tour of Australia in 2013-14 – was a little underwhelming, then almost everything he has done since then for England has turned to gold – the Yorkshireman establishing himself as one of the best batsmen in the world game.
His ability to read the match situation so well and adjust accordingly, as well as a useful knack of quietly accumulating runs while nobody was really looking, seemingly marked him out as an ideal candidate to bat at three for England – it is just a surprise the selectors have taken so long to see it.
Since his appointment as England coach, Trevor Bayliss has made much of wanting attacking players in the top three – an albatross that weighed heavily round the neck of Nick Compton and Alex Hales, at least in his first few innings.
Root, while clearly not a basher in the mould of his old sparring partner David Warner, is precisely the man to fulfill Bayliss’ request, his exploits in white ball cricket showcasing his innate ability to keep the scoreboard ticking along nicely.
While these are of course early days, there is also a sense that Root provides an excellent foil for his skipper. He and Cook have enjoyed success together with the bat in the past – the captain averaging 47.66 when batting with him – and with the two set to share more time in the middle for the foreseeable future, this can only be a good thing for England.
Their partnership of 185, on Day One at Old Trafford, was their sixth stand of 99 or more in 15 innings since 2014 and curiously the fourth time they have done so against Pakistan – and with both Cook and Root bringing up overdue hundreds, it was partnership that could well have turned the match unshakably in England’s favour.
With a middle order that is still in flux, there will inevitably be days when England may rue having their two star men side by side at the top of the order, a couple of cheap dismissals having the potential to derail their innings early on – but these are not concerns for a side that has designs on topping the rankings.
For now they should celebrate the fact that they might well have plugged one of the leaks in their lineup and only curse the fact that it has taken them until now to realise the answer has been staring them in the face all along.
First Published On : Jul 23, 2016 12:02 IST