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Joe Root: England planning for Ashes peak at the end of blockbuster year of Test cricket

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“You want to pitch yourself against the best, you want to be successful against the best and this is the opportunity to do it”; Test captain Joe Root says England are aiming to peak during the Ashes series in Australia at the end of a blockbuster year

England captain Joe Root discusses county cricket, finding his batting rhythm, and an exciting year ahead for the Test side – one he hopes will see them peak in the Ashes

Joe Root says England are planning with the intention of reaching their peak during the Ashes series in Australia at the end of the year.

Despite important home series against New Zealand and India, the two top-ranked sides in the world, this summer, the England Test captain confirmed that the Ashes remains the “pinnacle”.

The combination of the coronavirus pandemic and a jam-packed schedule led to England adopting a policy of rest and rotation during the recent series in India and despite an ECB restructuring handing head coach Chris Silverwood and the captain more responsibility for selection, Root indicated that the strategy will continue.

    England to rest IPL players against New ZealandChris Silverwood to miss England’s summer ODI series

“You’ve got to factor in so many things and the welfare of the players is obviously paramount,” he told Sky Sports. “We’ve got some really important cricket coming up and we’ve got to prioritise that.

“Thankfully we’ve still got a bit of time before we’ve got to make those decisions and when we sit down, we’ll factor in everything as best we can to make sure we’ve got a really clear idea of how we want to go, how we want to look and how we’re going to peak for that tour of Australia.

Root made a brilliant start to 2021 with big hundreds in his first three Tests of the year (Pic credit - BCCI) Root made a brilliant start to 2021 with big hundreds in his first three Tests of the year (Pic credit – BCCI)

“This is what you play for, really, years like this one. You want to pitch yourself against the best, you want to be successful against the best and this is the opportunity to do it.

“We’ve made good strides over the last couple of years as a Test team, it’s not been plain sailing, we’ve not had it all our own way but we’ve still improved.

“I truly believe that we are making good strides in the right direction and we’ve got the opportunity to keep improving, keep getting better and peak for Australia, which is the pinnacle for us.”

Managing director of England’s men’s cricket Ashley Giles has suggested the two-match series against New Zealand in June could see some “new faces” given a chance, with the likes of Sussex seamer Ollie Robinson and Gloucestershire left-hander James Bracey among those pushing to make their Test debuts.

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However, Root says there is no guarantee and that England will not go out of their way to engineer opportunities to have a look at different players ahead of the tour of Australia.

Sussex seamer Ollie Robinson is among those pushing for a Test debut this summer Sussex seamer Ollie Robinson is among those pushing for a Test debut this summer

“It’s always a tricky balance,” he said. “What you’re trying to do is create that environment where you’ve got a strong squad of players that have been together for a good period of time, no one going in cold.

“You can’t plan everything perfectly, especially at the minute with COVID, all the things that you have to deal with and the amount of cricket that there is.

“So there might be natural opportunities where things arrive but there might not be and I think the most important thing is that we keep an open mind and are very clear about how we want to move going forward and stick to that plan and process.”

However England choose to approach the next few months, Root’s runs will be crucial and after a superb start to the year with three Test centuries, two of them doubles, in spin-friendly conditions to start 2021, he has been trying to replicate that form back in home conditions with Yorkshire.

A century against Kent was his only score of note prior to this week’s game at Glamorgan but the 30-year-old right-hander looked in good touch as he ended day two unbeaten on 34 and, with wickets falling around him, went on to make 99 on day three at Sophia Gardens.

“I felt pretty good yesterday, I felt I was moving quite nicely,” he said prior to the day’s play. “I’ve been working on trying to play the ball a little bit later and I felt like I was lining it up quite straight so it’s a nice place to be but it doesn’t guarantee you anything when you start again.

“I think (rhythm) has been a big part of my batting for a few years now so more than anything that’s what I try to find when I practice, get that rhythm, make sure that I feel in control of all the shots that I want to play and playing the ball nice and close to me.”

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