Cricket: Gillespie backs Yorkshire duo to see job through

Gary Ballance.
Gary Ballance.
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JASON GILLESPIE has said he fully expects Yorkshire stars Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow to be a big part of England’s winter Ashes plans despite the current uncertainty regarding their roles in the Test side.

England go into today’s fifth and final Test against Australia at The Oval with doubts surrounding Root’s position at the top of the order and Bairstow’s position in the team full stop.

Root has managed only one score of note in the four Ashes Tests this summer – a brilliant 180 at Lord’s in only his second match opening the batting for his country.

Bairstow is still searching for his first century after 12 Test appearances and has yet to nail down the No 6 spot.

However, with attention shortly to turn towards this winter’s re-match, Yorkshire first-team coach Gillespie is adamant England are right to stand by both men and believes they can play an important role in the series Down Under.

“I fully expect those guys to play a big part in the winter for England,” said Gillespie, who captured 259 Test wickets for Australia at 26.13.

“As far as I’m concerned, those lads have both played their part in the current Ashes campaign and made some important contributions along the way.

“England realise that, they understand that, and they will have noticed how they’ve coped under pressure at important times.

“Jonny, for instance, has come in at times when it’s been four-down for not very many and made a couple of important contributions to put pressure back on the Australian bowlers, which is what you want from an aggressive No 6 batter.”

Root began his England career in the middle order but has yet to convince all of his suitability as an opener.

Take out his big hundred at headquarters, and Root’s innings this series read: 30, 5, 6, 8, 13*, 16 and 2.

Yesterday, the former Yorkshire and England opening batsman, and current Yorkshire president, Geoffrey Boycott had his say on the matter.

In his newspaper column, Boycott directly urged the 22-year-old to become more consistent.

“To Root I say one swallow does not make a summer,” wrote Boycott.

“One big century in the second innings at Lord’s, superb as it was, is not convincing us or yourself that you are ready to be an England opener. We all marvel at your concentration, range of shots and maturity for one so young.

“But somehow the footwork against the new ball is not there.”

Boycott went on: “Joe, you have had eight innings and seven failures.

“Two more failures on top will not do your confidence any good for the return Ashes.

“It would leave us all wondering if it was a mistake to move you from middle order to up front so soon.

“We still believe in you, but show us what you have got.”

While Root searches for the substantial score that would allay calls for him to be returned to the middle order, Bairstow – the man who would presently make way in that eventuality – is searching for a substantial score to keep himself in the team.

Bairstow’s technique has been picked apart by several commentators this summer, with former England fast bowler Bob Willis suggesting that he should be ironing out his flaws in the county game.

Bairstow’s scores in the Ashes have been more solid than striking: 37, 15, 67, 20, 22, 14 and 28.

Perhaps more than anyone, the 23-year-old could do with a sizeable contribution at The Oval – particularly with another Yorkshire batsman, Gary Ballance, knocking increasingly hard on the Test door after scoring yet another hundred for the Lions yesterday.

“There’s always pressure on you at international level,” reflected Gillespie. “Until batsmen get big hundreds, and until bowlers pick up bags of wickets, there’s always going to be a little bit of scrutiny on them.

“It doesn’t matter which team it is; you’ve seen it with Australia when they’ve changed their team every Test match.

“When the team’s not winning, it’s very justified to be able to change the side.

“England, in all honesty, have had some lads who probably haven’t performed as well as they’d like this series.

“You look at (Jonathan) Trott, (Alastair) Cook and Jonny B, who hasn’t really nailed that No 6 spot with the sort of big hundred that everyone really strives for.

“But it’s a winning side and England want to maintain that continuity.

“Personally I think that’s a really good thing.”

As England aim to complete their first 4-0 win in an Ashes series this week, one absentee is the Yorkshire pace bowler Tim Bresnan.

The 28-year-old was diagnosed with a stress fracture of the back earlier this week and will not play again this summer, with England wanting him to concentrate on getting right for the winter.

England (from): AN Cook (capt), JE Root, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, IR Bell, JM Bairstow, MJ Prior (wkt), SCJ Broad, GP Swann, JM Anderson, CT Tremlett, ST Finn, SC Kerrigan, CR Woakes.

Australia: M Clarke (capt), C Rogers, D, Warner, S Watson, S Smith, B Haddin (wkt), J Faulkner, M Starc, P Siddle, R Harris, N Lyon.