Joe Root has pledged to set the record straight in Australia and score the runs required to set up England’s first overseas Ashes win since the 2010-11 triumph under Andrew Strauss.
Before the first Test starting on Wednesday at the Gabba, a match for which England are mulling an all‑seam attack and braced for a hostile reception without their usual travelling support, the England captain stressed that personal and team form in these parts meant the only way was up.
The 30-year-old has failed to pass three figures on his two previous away Ashes tours, averaging 38 in the crushing 5-0 and 4-0 defeats. But Root is emboldened by a golden 2021 that has returned six of his 23 Test hundreds and noted Australia have not played a Test since a 2-1 home defeat against India in January.
He said: “I’m absolutely determined to put the record straight. Look at the last two tours and in many respects we can only expect better. Performances weren’t good enough. We have to make sure we rectify that this time around.
“If we go and approach things in the exact same manner then we’re likely to get similar results. So it’s really important we are brave in that respect and look to take the game to Australia.”
Though under a new captain in Pat Cummins, Australia remain odds-on favourites to claim a third successive series win on home soil. This reflects a batting lineup with fewer weak links and a bowling attack unchanged from four years ago when a collective relentlessness transcended the moribund pitches.
This time around England’s bowlers are hopeful of greater assistance from a revamped Kookaburra ball that aided India’s success 12 months ago – a campaign Root has studied meticulously – as well as greener pitches during what promises to be a cooler, damper summer than usual in the eastern states.
The forecast for Brisbane this week is for intermittent rain, which means as well as a final call between Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow at No 6 – Root and the head coach, Chris Silverwood, were deciding whether to leave out spinner Jack Leach despite the return of Ben Stokes as the team’s all-rounder.
England’s support staff have been staggered by how good Stokes has looked in training despite a four-month lay-off, not least with the bat after a second finger operation in October that addressed problems gripping the handle.
Root also talked up his vice-captain’s appetite for the big occasion before his first away Ashes assignment since the 2013-14 whitewash when, despite it being Stoke’s maiden Test series, he proved one the few players to push back against a rampant Australia side.
Root said: “Ben is very much made for Ashes cricket. Everything he is about suits this environment, this arena. He is a natural leader, he’ll want to lead from the front with his performances, whether that be with ball in hand or bat in hand.
“Off the back of the last series we played against Australia [in 2019], I’m sure they’ll be looking at him and fearing him slightly. And his last time playing in Australia, with a hundred and a five-for in his debut series, I do think the conditions suit his game and hopefully he can exploit that.
“Ultimately, this series is not going to be won by one player, it is going to be won by a collective effort and we’re all going to have to play our part in that. And if we play to our skill level, I believe we can absolutely pull off something very special.”
On the prospect of a hostile Gabba crowd – a fitting scene for Stuart Broad’s 150th cap given his past history at the ground – Root said: “It’s an opportunity for us to get really tight and stand up to that. We’ll just embrace it, enjoy the atmosphere and try to thrive off that sort of arena as much as we can.”