At the beginning of the 2015 Ashes, Joe Root was termed as the biggest threat to Australia's bowlers, in spite of the presence of much more experienced batsmen like Alastair Cook and Ian Bell. And, this conclusion was arrived at with a reason. Over the last year, Root has been England's most consistent batsmen in the Test arena. Having said that, he had a terrible Ashes in 2013 in Australia when Mitchell Johnson had him among others in all sorts of trouble. But, it has taken only one innings for Root to reaffirm that this is not going to be that kind of series.
The advantage with Root is that he can play both the waiting game and the attacking game depending on the situation, or on his reading of the game. On the opening day at Cardiff, England were in all sorts of strife batting first after Alastair Cook won the toss. It was the sort of situation that would have made the England side of the 90s go into a shell. But, Root and many others in the present English squad have a more aggressive, Australia-like attitude. This is what was evident in ample measure as Root and co went about rebuilding the innings. As a result, in spite of being seven down, England finished with an impressive 343.
Root's hundred on the first day of the Ashes was significant in a particular sense. The opening day of the series can often set the trend of things to come. It has so often happened in the past that a team has had a poor start to the series, and has failed to recover from there. England were in danger of finding themselves in a similar situation when they lost Cook, Adam Lyth and Ian Bell early. But, Root's counter-attack ensured that it wasn't to be the case. On the contrary, he saw to it that the hosts had the better of the day. The major plus with Root is that he gets his runs at a quick pace, and that too without taking too much risks.
Root's partnership with Gary Ballance on the day was highly significant as well. Ballance went into the series low on confidence, but played an assured knock, crossing a much-needed half century, and featuring in the stand that resurrected England's innings after a poor start. He should however be disappointed that he got out after getting himself in. What differentiates the good players from the great ones is how well they perform when the chips are down against the big sides. Ballance could have done a Root, by carrying on to make a hundred. This is an aspect of the game he must work on, along with Ben Stokes, who also got a fifty before giving it away.
When you're in against Australia, you better make it count, for you never know. Bad times might just be round the corner.
--By A Cricket Analyst