Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 4th day December 8, 2013

Mighty young Joe

He stood up to Mitchell Johnson and showed the fight England and their fans needed. Joe Root was the boy who wouldn't back down

Some, often not those at the ground, have been suggesting that the England batsmen have been backing away from Mitchell Johnson in fear of losing some handy organ. For those people, Joe Root should become a folk hero: the boy who wouldn't back down. Root wouldn't fall.

Root didn't just stand his ground, he giggled at Johnson. As if Johnson was some boy who had told him his mum smelt of peanut butter in the schoolyard.

This was the same Johnson who went through England like they were a soda can and he was one of those supernatural knifes you see advertised on late-night TV. This was the Johnson who had bruised, bullied and battered an entire batting order three innings straight. He was howling at Root, each play and miss made him even more furious, and he rarely missed a chance to snort aggressively or tell Root about it.

Root just continued to giggle.

Jonathan Agnew said on Twitter that Root gave Johnson an angelic smile. The fact he looks young shouldn't fool anyone. Root is obviously far harder and way too cheeky to ever be that angelic. When Root was confirmed as the person swung at by David Warner in a bar on Australia's tour of England, no one who knew him was that surprised. He's known as a pest by many. His face still looks nice because he is young and unburdened by the life of failure and hard work that crushes fresh faces. Even Ricky Ponting once looked like a lovely young boy.

Root wasn't giggling nervously at Mitch, he genuinely thought it was funny and liked that Johnson was going after him verbally. This wasn't a small, frail boy up against a category five Kaiju, this was a Test batsman with real skill taking on a snarling wild beast. And Root won.

England needed to see that one of their new men had passed more than just psychological tests off the field. He needed to stand up to one on it

Kevin Pietersen helped during their partnership but generally let Root hold his own, even in the sledging periods. The only time Pietersen felt the need to get involved was when Watson came in to add to the noise of Johnson's heavy breathing. One of the many times umpire Kumar Dharmasena got involved in the day (since he doesn't give no balls any more, he has more time on his hands) was to stop the chat between Pietersen and Watson.

On the whole Pietersen was subdued. Balls that could have been gloriously flamingoed in the air through the two waiting catchers at short midwicket were actually pushed safely along the ground to cover. Except for the balls that needed to be dispatched violently from Steven Smith (to keep such filth on the ground KP would have to work against muscle memory), it was a very disciplined innings from him. But yet again, he got trapped nowhere in a spell from Peter Siddle.

No one trapped Root. He beat the subtle variations of Siddle and Ryan Harris. He handled the stifling frugality of Watson, the odd good delivery from Nathan Lyon. He even managed to not smack the ball to a fielder when Smith bowled long hops.

It was the innings that England fans needed to see. Jonny Bairstow has not shown enough. James Taylor is not in the squad. Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan are pigeonholed for other formats. Nick Compton has disappeared. Jonathan Trott has gone home. England needed to see that one of their new men had passed more than just psychological tests off the field. He needed to stand up to one on it.

It was only Root's second half-century since his hundred at Lord's during the previous series. And despite that hundred being a daddy (180), this 87 was probably the best Root has batted in Test cricket. He did it in a situation that has prolonged his side's misery but maybe given them hope that not all is lost in the future.

Root even took them past 180, which might not seem like much, but when you're looking up from the gutter, 180 is a long way away.

It's not overly surprising that Root played Johnson better than most. His reflexes should be pretty much at their best, he is a natural back-foot player and he seems to like fast bowling. The only real time in the innings he looked like he had any trouble was when late on the front foot trying to drive length balls through the off side. Every play and miss made more smoke come from Johnson's nostrils, but Root seemed less fazed.

The fact he played the shot more than once shows his patience and technique can still be tested but not many Test cricketers of his age would have stood up to the Australia attack under these circumstances for so long. Many a young man has wafted aimlessly outside off stump before that gets beaten out of them through failure.

Root looked so well set that his wicket seemed like a surprise. Unlucky too, as an inside edge on to the thigh pad won't often end up back with the keeper. His trudge from the crease was very young-boy like, he could barely lift his head up and, when the crowd stood to cheer him, he just flopped his bat up for a millisecond. It showed how much it meant to him, the hundred, the match, the series. But he shouldn't be ashamed of how he batted today, not ever.

This innings might give England hope that, even if they haven't found a certain No. 3, they at least have found a quality player who can perform when the others can't. His innings either gave England a chance at rain on the final day, or kept them on the rack a little longer. It was the innings of a folk hero. Not an actual hero. Not yet.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • parjanya on December 9, 2013, 7:32 GMT

    Well,one can definitely say that Root is mentally up to it.And doesn't want to take the flight home in a hurry.Could be the making of him.

  • Benjamin on December 9, 2013, 5:33 GMT

    Like many have said it was a good knock and I got to watch it live at the ground but in racing terms that was track was classed as dead.

    He should and did make the runs, unfortunately none of his mates could do the same bar KP and a few lusty swings from an out of sorts Prior who might have just saved his career.

    Root also played and missed on 5-6 occasions from Johnson alone as well as others from Siddle and Harris, they could have easily been edged just like he did in the last series in the UK where bar his 180 was a total flop.

    I think his future is very bright but how he handles the pace and swing on decks that aren't so dead will be his big test at No.3, starting this week at the WACA.

    For now though let's hold off on the hero status.

  • Justin on December 9, 2013, 5:10 GMT

    I guess england need to grab onto something. Root batted well, but it wasn't hard batting out there. The Aussie bowlers were all a bit knackered, the pitch was flat and the weather good. Root still has a long way to go - I dont think he will ever strike fear into opposing captains and as shown in england and his previous 3 innings here in oz, there's gonna be plenty of opportunities to knock him over early. Until he backs up with back to back good innings, not sure he should have such articles written about him.

  • Graham on December 9, 2013, 4:43 GMT

    Milhouse79; Understand your point but need to correct your stats, in the last year we are 5 wins and 8 losses.

  • James on December 9, 2013, 4:25 GMT

    @millhouse79: That's true, but who have we faced? The top 3 tests nations that's who. SA here, India in India, and Eng in Eng. Next is SA at their home. It makes us look worse than we really were, you guys played an India batting line up past their used by date and a 8th ranked NZ 5 times and only won two!

    The test matches you have played have been far easier than what we have had to cop, but the positive is that it will accelerate our learning.

    England have beaten Australia when we were at an all time low, an Indian side at an all time low, but everytime you have faced tough opposition, you have crumbled. Pak in the UAE, SA in Eng and now Aus in Aus.

  • Barry on December 9, 2013, 3:54 GMT

    Root seems a good player, but the Adelaide wicket was a featherbed. Let's see how he goes on a much quicker and bouncier Perth track.

  • rob on December 9, 2013, 2:06 GMT

    He's a good lad young Joe. Even Johnson was having a bit of a smile as soon as he was out of Joe's sight. I saw it a few times. Priceless.

    I don't know if Joe will end up carving out a good career for himself or not but if he doesn't it won't be because of a lack of a cricket brain and some good old fashioned guts.

  • Dummy4 on December 8, 2013, 23:23 GMT


    Sorry to spoil the party, but we are making Root out to be a hero on a flat wicket. Australia managed 2 centuries and 4 fifties (including one from the Number 10) on the same strip. Joe may seem a hero relative to England's other performances, but in the context of the game it really was a non-event. Anyway, I guess the poms can keep dreaming..... Australia will no doubt lead 2-0 today and go to Perth salivating on wrapping the Ashes up prior to Christmas.

  • Colin on December 8, 2013, 20:23 GMT

    @BradmanBestEver...I think you are falling foul of that time honoured Aussie trait of talking yourself up too much. Firstly, Aus have trampled all over England and their ascendancy cannot be disputed. However, your batting has looked very fallible this series and if England had taken their chances, your scores would have been meager. Most of your batting averages in the 30s and has over relied on Clarke (how much longer will that back last?) for a long time. Johnson has been the difference and England have looked weak against him but please don't elevate yourself up too much: You have won the same amount of Test matches this year as Zimbabwe and your year aggregate currently stands at 2 wins 7 losses. Aus are looking highly likely to win these Ashes but I don't think you can crow too much yet, hard as that may be.

  • shashank on December 8, 2013, 16:32 GMT

    What I am watching in cricket now a days that some guys are getting extended run and then flourishing,and then being praised by all.It's not about that you score a fifty whereas all team failed,and that's why you are our hero.It's about performing throughout the tour,and root has performed well in one innings,Also,he is over hyped by English media,he is nowhere near to cook,pietersen etc.

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