Joe Root: From role-less wanderer to world’s best batsman

A 21-year-old Joe Root began his Test-match career in India during the winter of 2012 without a first-class record that suggested he was an obvious England candidate.

David Hopps intimated as much when writing about the Yorkshireman’s debut in Nagpur for CricInfo, when he observed that “(Root) has not scored runs heavily at any level, not destroyed attacks in the manner of a young Gower, Trescothick or Vaughan.”

There was, however, something about the batsman. His 229-ball 73 in the first innings of that Test was to be the sixth longest knock, in terms of balls faced, of any English batsman on debut.

If a promising Test career looked on the horizon following that surprising bow – both Eoin Morgan and Jonny Bairstow were believed to be ahead of Root in the pecking order before he got the nod – its trajectory was interfered with as England moved him up and down their batting order at will.

By the time he was dropped for the final match of the calamitous whitewash tour of Australia in 2012/13, Root had changed batting position nine times in 12 games.

A return to the team in a stabilised number five role the following summer has seen Root’s stock escalate.

1761 runs at an average of 80.04 in 27 innings since his recall has rocketed the cherubic right hander to the top of the game’s world rankings, surpassing Steve Smith who came into the current Ashes series as the globe’s premier batsman.

Although the last two Tests has seen Root move batting position again, the one place he has been elevated has done nothing to inhibit his job as the side’s middle-order insulin.

Unsurprisingly, Ladbrokes make the 24-year-old 11/4 favourite to be England’s top scorer in their first innings at the Oval, the final Test of an Ashes series that England wrapped up in emphatic fashion at Trent Bridge.

The bookmaker gives both sides an identical chance of claiming victory in the dead rubber at 11/8, with an unlikely draw priced up at 3/1.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.