Ashes 2013-14: Four talking points as Joe Root produces classy knock

Ashes 2013-14: Four talking points as Joe Root impresses and England reduce an Invitational XI to 153-4 on day three

By Stuart Clarke

Root takes root

Young Joe Root does not appear to mind his demotion in the batting order and has turned his attention to occupying the crease and scoring runs. He achieved both of these things on day three at the SCG, scoring a classy 75 in a stand of 106 with fellow Yorkshireman Jonny Bairstow (48). Root battled through an early blow on the gloves from Josh Lalor, which required a trip to the hospital post dismissal. After Bairstow was out, edging behind off Chris Tremain, Root hung on with Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann to add another 36 runs, before having his stumps removed by Nic Bills after an ugly swipe across the line. With this knock from Root, all of the England top-six have made a decent score in the warm-up games, which bodes well for the first Test at the Gabba.

Finch gets off to a flyer

Aaron Finch flicked the switch to one-day mode as he and opening partner Ed Cowan set about chasing down England’s lead of 114. Finch hit 59 off 60 balls, taking a particular shine to Graeme Swann, and he gave his Test match friends some tips on how to play the off-spinner in the Ashes. He said that aggression was the key to neutralising Swann. “When you let a world-class spinner like that settle in and keep bowling, chances are he’s going to get a wicket eventually. So I suppose if you can get on the front foot to him, attack him and put him under pressure it can help guys through the middle order”. Unfortunately the other Invitational XI batsmen were not able to offer the same fireworks as Finch, with Cowan plodding along to 42 before being bowled by Broad, and Kurtis Patterson dropping anchor with eight runs from 44 balls.

Is Finn reliable enough for the Test team?

Steven Finn showed his credentials for a place in the team at the Gabba in the first innings, picking up five wickets, but his inability to contain the Australian batsmen for long periods may prove his downfall. In 11.3 second-innings overs, Finn leaked 53 runs, 30 of which came in a five-over spell before tea, when Finch targeted the towering bowler. But then the Middlesex man proved why the selectors keep their faith in him by bowling an unplayable ball to Callum Ferguson, which went between bat and pad to remove the bails. If Finn can take wickets, the selectors will not mind him giving away a few runs, but on an off-day, the results can be disastrous.

So much for an Australian summer

Once again an England warm-up game was blighted by rain. After Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry spent an impressive three days unbeaten in the rain-affected match in Hobart, Root and Bairstow were held up by precipitation in the morning session, as only 14 overs were possible before lunch. The players were teased on-and-off the field three times in that session, although the disruptions did not hamper Root and Bairstow’s concentration. Many will find it hard to believe that Sydney receives more annual rainfall than Manchester (especially those who have spent any amount of time in Manchester), and cricket fans worldwide will hope that the weather does not impact what promises to be a fascinating Ashes series.

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