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News

Joe Root available for Yorkshire's Blast opener as he plots England T20 return

England's Test captain has not played T20 format in over a year

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
25-Aug-2020
Joe Root gets down to sweep, England v India, 2nd T20I, Cardiff, July 6, 2018

Joe Root gets down to sweep  •  Getty Images

Joe Root is set to play his first T20 since May 2019 and his first for Yorkshire in more than two years on Thursday night, as he begins his push for inclusion in England's 2021 T20 World Cup squad.
Root said last week he would be "trying to play as much cricket as I can this summer" and highlighted his desire to play in T20 Blast Finals Day on October 3. Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale confirmed after play was abandoned in the Roses Bob Willis Trophy match on Tuesday that Root would be available for the televised opener at home to Nottinghamshire, following the conclusion of the third Test against Pakistan.
"I spoke to Rooty last night [Tuesday], and he's chomping at the bit," Gale told the ECB Reporters Network. "He's got a point to prove not being in the England T20 set-up, which is a good thing for us.
"I'm not quite sure how many games he will play [but] he's definitely going to play on Thursday. England are making a selection on the Australian T20 series on Sunday night, so he might play on Sunday and Monday as well.
"Everything's a bit up in the air. I just see anything as a bonus because we didn't expect to have him at all."
ESPNcricinfo understands that the majority of England's Test squad will be made available to play for their counties in the opening round of Blast games, though some seamers may be instructed to rest ahead of September's white-ball series against Australia.
Root was England's leading run-scorer in the 2016 World T20 with 249 runs in six innings, making a crucial 83 off 44 balls in the group stage against South Africa and top-scoring with 54 off 36 in the final against West Indies.
But he has fallen out of their first-choice top seven in the four years since, losing his place during the home series against India in 2018 and not featuring in their last three squads in the format. He played seven games for Sydney Thunder in the 2018-19 Big Bash in an attempt to prove his short-form credentials, but managed only 99 runs.
He had seemed unlikely to make the squad for the scheduled 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia, but that tournament's postponement may open the door for him to return.
While Root's T20 record against spin is underwhelming, he is seen as one of their best players of slow bowling: he averages 73 against it in his ODI career and was impressive against West Indies' Samuel Badree and Sulieman Benn in the 2016 tournament. With the next T20 World Cup now in India, his skillset against the turning ball makes him a more attractive pick.
England appeared to know six members of their strongest top seven during their 2-1 win in South Africa earlier this year, in the form of Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali, but both Dawid Malan and Joe Denly were unconvincing while batting out of position at No. 5. Those two, plus Sam Billings, Tom Banton and Lewis Gregory, are in line for opportunities to impress in the three-match T20I series against Pakistan, with Buttler and Stokes both unavailable for selection.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98