Cricket "Bring it on" - Root gears up for Ashes battle
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Avi
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11-14-2017, 07:34 PM -
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With just over a week to go before the first Test, the Ashes phoney war is well and truly underway and the Australian team have made no secret of their plan to target England captain Joe Root during the series. But in Townsville, where England play their final warm-up match ahead of the first Test, Root had a simple riposte: "bring it on".


Traditionally, Australian teams attempt to single out the opposition captain on the field with word and deed and it is likely to be a key battle during the Ashes, particularly given Root's importance as England's best batsman. If you can keep the captain quiet, so the thinking goes, the rest of the team will follow - cutting off the head of the snake, as it were - but Root is not fazed by such talk.


"I've heard a lot of chat about targeting me in particular," Root said on Tuesday (November 14). "From our point of view, we'll be targeting every single one of them. We won't be singling anyone out. To win a Test match you have to take 20 wickets. Of course we'll have plans in place for each individual player. Bring it on. That's what it's about. You want that competitive element to it and little in-house rivalries if you like. It should be a great series. They've got some great players in their squad and some great characters which I am sure will make for some great viewing."



England are likely to be faced with the much talked about pace trio of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood for the first Test at the Gabba. Cummins has raised the verbal skirmishes by stating that he wants to be the team's enforcer against England by "getting in their face and being relentless" during the series in much the same way that Mitchell Johnson was in 2013-14 when Australia won 5-0 and the fast-bowler terrorised Alastair Cook's side to the tune of 37 wickets.


"That's always the talk [about hostility]," said Root. "Last time that maybe caught us out. I think we are a little bit wiser to it this time round. Whatever they do throw at us, we are expecting it to be hostile, we are expecting it to be a very loud and rowdy atmosphere at the Gabba. We've got our heads round what to expect. It's just about making sure we do everything we can to feel ready."


Root gave short shrift when asked whether England fear Cummins and co. "I don't think fear's the right word," he said. "I think respect is a better word. They've got a lot of quality in their attack but we've got a lot of quality in our team as well. I'm not sure those are the words that will be flying around our dressing room. These are the sort of the statements you expect two weeks out from the first Ashes Test in Australia."


England have the one final warm-up game in Townsville, against a Cricket Australia XI, before the first Test with which to finalise their preparations. They have named the same top six as the previous match which means no place again for Gary Ballance. Moeen Ali returns to the side after injury while Stuart Broad replaces the resting James Anderson. Mason Crane and Craig Overton will both get their third start of the tour.



There is no place for Jake Ball who sprained his anklein the victory over the CA XI in Adelaide. He is making steady progress though and is expected to start running tomorrow which means it is looking increasingly likely that he will be fit for the first Test. Anderson, England's most important bowler, has been struggling with a bug in recent days but is not a doubt for the Gabba.


Root admitted the previous match in Adelaide had been useful preparation but he wants to see more, particularly from the batsmen, in Townsville. "One of the things we want to get out of it is guys making big hundreds," said Root. "If we get the opportunity to do that, that's definitely the mentality we will have as a batting side and that's something we're going to have throughout the five Test matches. Some might say you don't want to peak to early but ultimately, getting into good habits is a good thing so that's the way we have to approach it.


"We did a lot of good things there [in Adelaide] as well. We came out with the ball and got them 70-7 in the evening which I thought was an excellent period of play for us. It's slightly different with the pink ball but I thought we adapted to those conditions well. It will give us an indication of how that second Test match might pan out and things we might have to take into account when that game comes round."


Root didn't seem overly concerned when asked if the nature of the opposition and pitches England had encountered on tour meant they would not be sufficiently acclimatised for the first Test. The CA XI were callow opponents in Adelaide and are set to be even more inexperienced in Townsville with Tim Paine recalled to Tasmania and Jackson Coleman, the most impressive CA XI seamer in Adeladie, injured. The pitches at both the WACA and Adelaide Oval were also turgidly slow.


"When you come to these warm-up games, I remember last time round, it was very similar, same sort of sides we played against and surfaces we played on," said Root. "You've just got to try and make the most of it. I think we've mentally approached it slightly differently this time round and slightly better if I'm honest.


"One thing you get from here [Townsville] is the heat. It might be raining now but it is quite warm and humid and there might be an element of that in Brisbane. We've just got to make the most of four days of hard cricket. We've got to make sure we get the best out of ourselves leading into that first game."
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