England v Australia – Yorkshire CCC’s Joe Root not interested in World Cup mind games

Joe Root admits things can get “spicy” when England face Australia but says any attempt at mind games will fall on deaf ears ahead of this week’s World Cup semi-final.

England's Joe Root (left) and head coach Trevor Bayliss. Picture: Nigel French/PA
England's Joe Root (left) and head coach Trevor Bayliss. Picture: Nigel French/PA

With the Ashes just a few weeks away, the old rivals come face to face in another high-stakes clash at Edgbaston on Thursday, with a place in the Lord’s showpiece up for grabs.

Australia spinner Nathan Lyon has already kicked off the traditional psychological battle, telling England “it’s their World Cup to lose” and nominating the hosts as firm favourites.

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That cuts little ice with Yorkshire’s Root, who is well versed in these encounters and does not intend to be dragged off course as the nation look to reach the final for the first time since 1992.

EYE ON THE PRIZE: Englands Joe Root during the nets session at Edgbaston, Birmingham, ahead of Thursdays World Cup semi-final with Australia. Picture: Nigel French/PA

“Nathan has a lot to say, a lot of the time, so you just take it with a pinch of salt,” he said of the off-spinner’s contribution.

“It might be a way of taking pressure off himself and his team. It has happened for years. Look back at when Glenn McGrath played and (he predicted) 5-0 every time. It’s just part and parcel of when you play against Australia. That’s how they like to prepare themselves and get themselves ready.

“I try not to get too involved to be honest.

“I think there have been times within games when it has got a bit spicy and there have been a few exchanges on the field, but generally we will go about things in our own way and just get ourselves ready as best we can.”

The balance of power is hard to read heading in to the fixture. As reigning champions and five-time winners Australia hold all the cards in terms of tournament experience – particularly as England have yet to win the trophy and have a uniformly dire record since finishing as runners-up 27 years ago.

They had, though, won 10 of the last 11 ODIs between the teams prior to this summer only to come unstuck in the group phase at Lord’s.

“There has been a lot made of the fear factor of playing against Australia, but I think for this group of players over the last four years their experiences against Australia are very positive,” said Root.

“They have got a lot of success in the bank. We will be drawing on the confidence that, over a long period of time now, we have been successful against Australia and we should take that into Thursday.”

Regardless of the result this time the key protagonists will be renewing hostilities in Birmingham in less than a month, with Edgbaston hosting the opening Ashes Test starting on August 1.

The urn is never far from anyone’s mind where England and Australia are concerned but Root, who captains the red ball side, insists matters at hand take priority.

“All the guys have been, naturally, speaking about the Ashes at different times in the summer and are really excited about it,” said Root.

“The closer it comes the more talk there will be about it and playing Australia in a semi-final will bring up the Ashes. But the whole squad’s focus is getting ready for Thursday and making sure we do everything we can to get to that final and make it a very special week.”

The dynamics of the crowd this week are expected to be slightly different to the usual Edgbaston experience – the rampantly partisan atmosphere mitigated somewhat by the fact many Indian fans snapped up tickets in case their side wound up involved in this match.

Yet England remain more than happy to be walking out at a venue where they have won 10 on successive occasions across formats.

“It is great to have the record like that in the back of your mind. We really enjoy playing at this ground,” said Root.

“We always get good support and I’m sure anyone who has tickets and comes to the game will be fully behind us. It’s always been somewhere I’ve enjoyed turning up to play.”

Australia’s Peter Handscomb has yet to play in the tournament, having joined up as a replacement for Shaun Marsh, but is in line to replace another injury victim, Usman Khawaja.

“It’s actually living the dream to be here now,” said Handscomb, who had a spell with Yorkshire in 2017.

“It’s really sad for those guys who have gone down, especially so late in the tournament.”