Joe Root stands by decision to bat first despite England’s crushing defeat

Captain Joe Root insisted he had no regrets about his teamsheet or his decision to bat first despite watching Australia cruise to victory in the the first Ashes Test.

England attracted huge amounts of scrutiny for leaving James Anderson Stuart Broad and the small matter of 1,156 Test wickets on the sidelines at The Gabba, with widespread shock Down Under and no shortage of dissenting voices at home.

Root then won the toss and batted under overcast skies and saw his side rolled over for 147.

It was all uphill from there as Australia racked up a 278-run first-innings lead and finished off a nine-wicket victory by chasing down a meagre target of 20 on the fourth afternoon.

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Root, who said on the eve of the series that the next few weeks would define his reign, was bullish about both of the big calls.

With England having lost by 5-0 and 4-0 in the last two visits, he argued boldness was a necessity.

“We have to be brave, we have to look to do things differently to previous tours,” he said.

“If we go about things exactly as we have on the last two tours, we’re going to get the same results. I look back on the toss and I think it was the right decision. Being 29 for four makes it look like that’s not the case and credit to Australia to exploit those conditions a little bit.

“But if we get some sort of score on the board, with how that wicket started to behave today, you’re looking at a very different contest.”

As for the decision to rest record wicket-taker Anderson for the second Test and leave his nearest challenger out, he held firm.

Broad was ultimately shelved in favour of spinner Jack Leach who was smashed for 102 in just 13 overs as part of a pre-planned attack by the Australian batters.

“In terms of selection, it’s easy to say with hindsight. We could have gone a different way but we wanted variety in our attack, we wanted different ways of changing the pace of things,” said Root.

“I wanted to be able to change the momentum of the game and we went with the spinner. Credit to Australia, they took on Leachy.

“I probably put quite a lot of that on myself for being slightly too aggressive with his fields early on. It’s probably more on my shoulders there and how I managed him rather than looking at the selection.”

Despite those words, it seems inconceivable that things will not change for next week’s day/night Test in Adelaide. Indeed, with the pink ball expected to swing under lights it seems highly likely both old stagers will be back in the spotlight.

“I think now is completely the wrong time to start talking about selection,” Root said.

“But it’s nice to know that they should be fit, available and ready to go fresh for those conditions if they’re required.”

  • 1st Test, Brisbane: Aus win by 9 wkts
  • 2nd Test, Adelaide: Dec 16-20
  • 3rd Test: Melbourne: Dec 26-30
  • 4th Test: Sydney: Jan 5-9
  • 5th Test: Hobart: Jan 14-18

Among the many frustrations from the Queensland curtain-raiser, Root made a couple of references to dropped chances in the field.While Australia’s handiwork was immaculate, there were drops of varying difficulty from Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Haseeb Hameed and Chris Woakes as well as a couple of missed run outs.

“I genuinely believe if we take our chances and handle that initial first innings better, I’d be sat here in a very different position,” he concluded.

On a personal level Root responded well to a first-innings duck, sharing a stand of 162 with Dawid Malan in the second before being dismissed for 89. That means he is still waiting for a first Ashes hundred away from home, having failed to convert seven half-centuries.

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“This tour is not about me getting runs in Australia, it’s about us winning,” he said.

“I know if I make big scores we have a better chance and I know I’m capable of a big score off the back of a very strong year with a lot of hundreds.”

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