Skipper Joe Root fails to make the grade in first audition for regular No3 slot

Ross McLean
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England v Pakistan: 1st Test - Day One
Joe Root played a wild shot and was dismissed for four (Source: Getty)

After a bruising winter of discontent there was a new school year feel at Lord's with the opportunity for England’s underperforming pupils to absolve themselves within such seminary grounds.

Recently-appointed chair of governors Ed Smith had taken his first assembly the previous week, laying out his timetable to prevent England’s porous top order from splintering with alarming regularity.

Part of the experiment resulted in skipper Joe Root moving to No3 in a refurbished top five which saw Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow promoted at No4 and No5 respectively.

The plan failed. The hosts found themselves in the far from unfamiliar position of 149-5, having briefly threatened to recover from a turbulent start under the guidance of former captain Alastair Cook, who amassed 70. England, however, then lost their last five wickets for just 16 runs.

Although there were some indifferent strokes, to point the finger wholly at the batsmen would be doing a grave disservice to Pakistan’s seamers, particularly Mohammad Abbas and Hasan Ali, who bemused and bamboozled their rivals on a green-tinged deck.

Root had taken the initiative himself to fill the No3 slot, comfortable and confident enough with his captaincy to assume the added responsibility, as James Vince was axed following his struggles Down Under during the winter.

But England have been here before with Root – so often encouraged to follow the lead of ex-Australia captain Ricky Ponting and move up the order – and the No3 position, which appears to carry with it a burden of mysticism.

In the last 12 months alone Gary Ballance, Tom Westley and Vince have all tried and failed to establish themselves as the long-term replacement for Jonathan Trott, who himself provided the solution to the oft-unanswered problem position.

Root had previously been reluctant to relinquish his usual No4 spot, where he averages 54.4 in Test cricket. That output drops to 45.3 in 17 matches prior to this one when batting at No3.

So often England’s shining light and saviour, the Yorkshireman’s vigil at the crease yesterday lasted 46 minutes and 24 deliveries, during which he managed just four runs.

One swallow certainly does not make a summer and with a scorecard littered with mediocrity and paltry scores, Root was not solely culpable by any means. But given England’s top-order woes in general, by overseeing Root’s rise to No3 perhaps an additional problem has been created that need not exist.

An early report card would most definitely suggest there is vast room for improvement.

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