November 28, 2019 / 5:57 AM / 15 days ago

England's second test chances rely on Root flourishing

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - England captain Joe Root is under no illusions about his batting slump and recognises if his side are going to win the second match in Hamilton and level the two-test series against New Zealand then he needs to make a substantial contribution.

FILE PHOTO: Cricket - England Nets - Seddon Park, Hamilton, New Zealand - November 28, 2019 England's Joe Root during nets REUTERS/Ross Setford

Root’s side were hammered by an innings and 65 runs in the first test in Mt. Maunganui when New Zealand, anchored by BJ Watling’s marathon 11-hour maiden test double century of 205, scored a mammoth 615-9 declared.

England were bowled out for 353 and then 197 with Root contributing scores of two and 11 at Bay Oval, his worst return in a test since he took over the captaincy in early 2017, and fifth-worst in his entire 87-match career.

“I’m not far away,” Root told British media in Hamilton on Thursday of his form. “I played two horrendous shots in the last game (but) the fact I’m getting myself out, you can deal with that.”

The worrying thing for Root and new coach Chris Silverwood, who will leave the tour on Saturday after a family bereavement, is that Root has been on a downward track since he succeeded Alastair Cook as skipper almost three years ago.

The 28-year-old has long been considered one of the premiere batsmen in world cricket and often bracketed with India’s Virat Kohli, Australia’s Steve Smith and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson as a ‘big-four’.

His double failure at Bay Oval, however, saw him drop outside the top-10 in the International Cricket Council’s rankings of test batsmen for the first time in more than five years.

It also saw his batting average drop below 40 as captain to 39.70, with his career average now 47.35.

Root, who had kept his career average above 50 - and amongst the all-time greats of the game - since he first got there in mid-2014, has spiralled even further downwards in a terrible 2019.

In his 10 tests this year he has scored just 548 runs with one century and an average of 27.40.

Despite his struggles he is still the most successful and prolific batsman in England’s lineup and felt he was still getting into right positions that should enable him to score heavily in the must-win match at Seddon Park.

“I’m moving well, hitting the ball well. I’ve just got to keep that mentality ... get my feet moving, stay busy, and go about my business as I have for four or five years,” he said.

“I’ve got to trust that that’s going to come.”

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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