Joe Root deserves century in Australia

CHASING: Joe Root raises his bat after scoring a half century during day one of the third Test match in the Ashes series at the MCG. Picture: Getty
CHASING: Joe Root raises his bat after scoring a half century during day one of the third Test match in the Ashes series at the MCG. Picture: Getty

It is hard not to have some compassion for Joe Root, the England captain carries too much responsibility every time he comes to the crease.

Root, who has scored the most Test runs of any batsman this year, arrived at the wicket on Boxing Day with his team in desperate trouble again.

He looked to take the attack up to the Australian bowlers from the start, running hard and keeping the scoreboard moving with aggressive strokeplay.

Root reached the half-century mark for the third time this series before flashing outside the off stump at a Mitchell Starc delivery and the catch was accepted gratefully by a diving Alex Carey behind the stumps.

Root's record in Australia is well documented, with his batting average in 12 Tests in this country well below his overall average of 50.01 in 112 Tests.

His 50 on Boxing Day was the ninth time he has reached the half-century in this country but is yet to crack the ton.

He has already scored six Test centuries this year and made the confident prediction before this match he would break his Australian hoodoo at the MCG.

Root has the chance to score a century in the second innings and he deserves it.

Hopefully he does not suffer the same fate as Australian great Doug Walters, who failed to score a Test ton in four tours of England.

DOMINATE: Pat Cummins celebrates the wicket of Dawid Malan during day one of the third Test match on Boxing Day. Picture: Getty

DOMINATE: Pat Cummins celebrates the wicket of Dawid Malan during day one of the third Test match on Boxing Day. Picture: Getty

Tradition rules on Boxing Day

There have been calls to make the Boxing Day Test a day-night affair, but it is perfect as a red-ball fixture.

Melbourne's notoriously fickle weather is a good reason not to meddle with tradition.

The skies on the first day were generally grey with occasional bursts of sunshine.

The temperature was in the high teens, but it would have been much cooler and less comfortable for spectators by 10pm.

The Boxing Day crowd was not as large as the initial expectation of 70,000-plus and some might have been deterred by the latest COVID-19 outbreak and resultant increase in rules and restrictions at the venue.

But the MCG was in magnificent condition and the enthusiastic 57,100 patrons had plenty to cheer about.

One of the biggest roars was reserved for Scott Boland's first Test wicket when he trapped tailender Mark Wood leg before wicket.

The big Victorian paceman bowled well in his debut Test and contributed strongly in the field with two outfield catches to cap off a memorable day.

With the past two AFL Grand Finals being transferred interstate, it was just the tonic that sports-deprived Victorians needed after being locked down so long.

Stokes a key to England resurgence

England needs a big performance from Ben Stokes to turn around its flagging fortunes and it did not start well for him in the third Test.

After the tourists slumped to 4-82 on day one, much responsibility rested on Stokes' broad shoulders to resurrect a recovery and keep England's hopes of regaining the Ashes alive.

The left-hander started patiently before looking to take the initiative away from the Australians, lifting Nathan Lyon into the Southern Stand with a massive six.

But not long after he fell in a most disappointing fashion, attempting to cut Cameron Green over the infield but succeeding in giving Lyon an easy catch at point.

In five innings in this series he has managed to score only 90 runs at an average of 18, well below his Test average of 36.40 in 73 Tests.

His figures with the ball are also far from flattering.

While he finished with three wickets in Australia's first innings in Adelaide, he bowled far too short and wide trying to act as an enforcer in the absence of Wood.

His lead-up to this series was not ideal, returning after taking an extended break because of finger surgery and mental health issues.

But he has given everything in the field, pulling off an excellent outfield catch in Adelaide.

As vice-captain he provides a sounding board for Root and is his likely successor.

England missed the big all-rounder's presence in the last Ashes tour in Australia four years ago and the Australians are well aware of his match-winning qualities.

There is an aura about Stokes when he is in the right mindset as he showed with his remarkable innings to spearhead a memorable Test victory at Headingley two years ago.

England desperately wants to see some magic such as that from the all-rounder or the series will be gone.

England's batting inept again

Pat Cummins' decision to send England in to bat was vindicated with a clinical effort with the ball and in the field.

Cummins started the rot by taking the first three wickets and was well supported by his other four bowlers Starc, Boland, Lyon and Green.

It must be said though the Australians were helped again by inept England batting.

Openers Haseeb Hameed and Zak Crawley failed dismally, then Dawid Malan and Jos Buttler fell to loose shots just before the lunch and tea breaks respectively.

Jonny Bairstow showed some pluck before becoming Starc's second victim and the tail, apart from a few lusty blows by Ollie Robinson and Jack Leach, provided little resistance.

It has been the sorry tale of this series so far for England.

Has Howard got it right? Email:; Twitter: @hpkotton59

This story Root deserves Australian century first appeared on The Canberra Times.