Batting at No.3 'was completely my decision' - Joe Root on Ashes batting order
Captain pushed himself up order for good of the team balance
Joe Root has insisted it was his decision to move back to No. 3 in the England line-up and hopes the change proves his determination to take tough decisions for the benefit of the team.
England's top-order has struggled for several years and, going into the Ashes, it appeared they may field a top three with just 11 caps - and no centuries - between them.
But while Root has previously made no secret of his preference to bat at No. 4, it became apparent earlier this week that he was going to move up the order in an attempt to add some experience in the top three. And while that could have been interpreted as Root bowing to the views of others in the team management - Trevor Bayliss, the coach, and Ed Smith, the head selector, have believed for some time that he should bat at No. 3 - he says it was a decision he came to independently during the Test against Ireland.
"It was completely my decision," Root said. "I came to the final decision in the Ireland match. It's something I've been thinking about for a long time. It's an opportunity for me to get in there earlier to spread out the experience.
"I've always thought the best thing for the team is for me to score runs. And for a long time my record at No.4 would suggest that would be the best thing. But, where we are as a team currently and where I'm at as a captain, I'm a good enough player to be able to make the same returns at No.3.
"There are a number of different ways you can lead. This is just another opportunity to take my leadership forward and sort of show the rest of the group that it is something I'm more than prepared to do. I'm not expecting anyone to do something that I wouldn't."
Root has batted at No. 3 previously. He spent much of 2016 - before he was captain - in the role, though it was noticeable that he reverted to No. 4 as soon as he took on the leadership. And while he returned to No. 3 during the English summer of 2018, he struggled for runs (he averaged 29.22 in the Test against India and Pakistan that summer when he batted at No. 3) and moved back to No.4 during the final Test. In all, he averages 40.47 in 40 innings with two centuries and 10 half-centuries in the position. He averages 48.00 in 60 innings with seven centuries and 19 half-centuries at No. 4.
He hopes, however, that his growing experience of captaincy has helped him compartmentalise the differing demands upon him and allow him to enjoy as much success a little further up the order.
"Having captained this side for a while, I feel I can get my head around juggling leading on the field and batting," Root said. "Hopefully we'll see that in my batting and this can be a series where I stamp my authority in the role and make it my own. I'm excited to take on that challenge."
Root admits, however, that this could be a series dominated by bowlers. He knows that England's decision to utilise a brand of Dukes ball with a particularly prominent seam may result in lower scores and accepts that his side may have to adapt to that reality. But he believes they must also stick to their natural games and has urged Jason Roy to continue to take the attack to the bowlers.
"We understand that, especially in England, it can be very difficult at the top of the order," Root said. "It's how you react to that: are we skilful and smart enough to make big scores? We have exploited bowler-friendly conditions over the past few years and found ways of winning matches in England. We have a good record here. It is set up nicely to be a juicy contest.
"So there is a lot of talk about bowlers, but with that comes the opportunity for batters to prove a point. You have to play to your strengths and Jason has been picked to play in his own manner at the top of the order. It's very exciting that we have gone that way. It gives us something slightly different. He has the opportunity to put pressure on the opposition at the top of the order.
"We have gone about things in a certain way for a long time and this is an opportunity to try something different. We feel like he is a high-quality international player. He has a point to prove in Test cricket, but he has a very good game on him. I'm very excited to see that unfold."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo