Joe Root gave further demonstration of his technical and mental abilities ahead of the Ashes this summer with a knock of 179 against New Zealand.
The 22-year-old was given the captaincy of the side, a mark of how highly he is regarded within the England set-up. He responded in style to his appointment, with a dominant innings against a Kiwi attack including Test players Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell.
It was the batsman’s patience and shot selection which stood out most at Grace Road, in what was his third score this term of over 150. He scored 236 against Derbyshire at the start of this month, and now has 646 first class runs for the season. Not since Graeme Hick in 1988 has anyone clocked up 1000 runs before the end of May.
Root made an auspicious start to his nascent Test career in Nagpur last year, batting for 229 balls to make 73 and rescue a faltering England innings. The Yorkshireman was not alone in underperforming in New Zealand on England’s tour in March, but his start to the domestic season bodes well for a profitable summer.
England have won the last two Ashes series on home soil – and three of four overall – and at 4/9 they start as strong favourites to retain the urn they won in such style back in 2011 in the Southern hemisphere.
The Australians’ troubles have been well documented of late, and they come to these shores off the back of a 4-0 whitewash defeat in India, where this England side won 2-1 at the end of 2012.
They are 7/2 to record an unlikely victory, with the series 5/1 to finish drawn.
Should that draw occur,England are a 1/5 shot to retain the Ashes, which should tempt many given the tourists’ current woes – not to mention the inclement weather.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing