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Root Sought Ponting’s Help to Improve Fifties to Hundreds Conversion Rate

Cricketnext Staff |July 24, 2019, 12:06 PM IST
Root Sought Ponting’s Help to Improve Fifties to Hundreds Conversion Rate

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting revealed that Joe Root had spoken to him about bettering his rate of conversion from fifties to centuries, and advised England to play him at number 3, even as Australia target him with a set strategy.

Root, who played briefly for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash last year, approached Ponting then to help sort out the issue of conversion. In 80 Test matches, he has 16 hundreds and 41 fifties for a conversation rate of 3.56.

"He said he wanted to have a bit of a chat about his cricket and where he felt he was in his career," Ponting told cricket.com.au.

"For me, (his conversion rate issue has) one hundred per cent just got to be a mental hurdle that he can't quite get over, and the more you start thinking about little things like that, the harder they are to put them out of your mind.

"I'm sure every time he gets to 50 now, the next 50 runs he scores will probably be the hardest runs he ever scores when it should be the other way around; the first 50 should be the hardest and the second fifty be the easiest, but it always looks like it's just getting a little bit more difficult for him.

"But like I said (to him), if he keeps putting himself in that situation enough where he gets to that fifty mark, it won't be long before he starts turning them into hundreds."

However with the Ashes around the corner, Root should not be unduly worried because his problem of conversion is more overseas. He has scored 19 fifties both home and away, but 11 of his 16 hundreds have come at home, while in UK-based Ashes matches, he has three hundreds and three fifties (compared to six fifties and zero hundreds in Australia).

Australia won the last Ashes quite comfortably and Ponting urged the bowlers to improve on their performances from then if they want the plans against Root, who scored five half centuries in that series in 2017/18, and England to be successful.

"We probably haven't bowled as well to him in England as we have in Australia, or the plans that we've been trying to execute haven't been executed well enough here in England," Ponting said.

"I honestly think the boys will have a pretty set plan on how they're going to bowl to him this series. I think they had some really clear plans in Australia last time, most of them worked and it wasn't until really late in the series where he started to even look at home or look comfortable.

"He looked uncomfortable all the way through that last series I thought, in Australia."

Australia are likely to attack Root’s propensity to move across his stumps, leaving him exposed to an lbw or bowled dismissal from the fuller delivery.

In Australia's first World Cup clash against England last month, the tactic was in play; Root was lbw to a full Mitchell Starc in-swinger from the fifth ball the left-armer bowled to him.

"Three or four balls was all it took to drag him across and then one just went right back down the line and trapped him right in front," Ponting observed. "Joe knows that that's how the Aussies are going to come after him because I think probably every other team in world cricket does the same thing to him.

"So, I think the plans to him will be quite simple and I think a lot of the time with players like that – with Virat (Kohli) as well – sometimes the more you attack them, the easier it becomes for them. If you can just stick to a pretty solid simple game plan, more often than not they will come to you."

England have struggled to get solid starts in Test cricket since the retirement of Sir Alastair Cook (average first-wicket stand of 26 in six Tests), Ponting believes it makes sense for the skipper to be slotted in at three.

"They have a lot of middle order players – (Jonny) Bairstow, (Jos) Buttler, (Ben) Stokes – all these guys can bat well in the middle, (but) they haven't had a solid number three for a couple of years now," he said.

"So I'd be tempted, if I was England, to lock Joe Root into number three. He's obviously coming off a good World Cup as well, looks like he's in really good control of his game, so now might be the best time for him to move up into that spot.

"The bottom line, I'd be thinking about what's best for their team. If Joe Root thinks it's best for the England cricket team that he bats at number four, then they've got another decision to make. If he thinks it's in England's best interest to bat at number three, then he should bat at number three."

Root is no stranger to the position; he has batted there 40 times in Tests, averages 40.57 with two hundreds, and filled the role as recently as last year's home series against India.

Since his Test debut in December 2012, no-one has scored more than Root's 1538 runs at No.3 for England of the 11 batsmen who have been experimented with there – a statistic that highlights just what a problem area it has been.

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