Moxon certain level-headed Root’s career can meet high expectations

THERE was no double century for Joe Root in the second Test against Australia at Lord’s, but the Yorkshireman’s final score of 180 seemed appropriate for a batsman who keeps hitting the bullseye.

England's Joe Root celebrates scoring 100 not out on day three of the Second Investec Ashes Test at Lord's

Whatever challenge Root has faced in his fledgling career, he has met it with aplomb.

Break into the Yorkshire first team and hold down a regular place as an opening batsman? No problem.

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Break into the England side and adapt to an unfamiliar position in the middle order? Ditto.

Move up to open the batting for England in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of an Ashes series? Why, it’s all in a day’s work for the man affectionately known as ‘The Milky Bar Kid’.

At 22, Root is very much English cricket’s golden boy.

So much so, you half expect to see a halo spring up around the shock of blond hair and boyish features that are at variance with the mature underbelly.

Root lures bowlers into a false sense of security as surely as Lieutenant Colombo fatally deceived the criminal fraternity of Los Angeles.

Australia are just the latest to have been hoodwinked by the outwardly harmless baby-faced assassin.

No sooner had Root become England’s youngest Ashes centurion on Saturday evening than the cognoscenti were foretelling great things.

Some said Root’s innings cemented his place as an England opening batsman for the next decade or more, while others said it showed he has the temperament and class to be a future England captain.

It suddenly amounts to a sizeable burden of expectation on the shoulders of one so young, a man who is bound to experience lows among the highs and who is still learning the game.

However, it is a burden that all who have watched his development at close quarters are confident he can cope with – none more so than Martyn Moxon, the Yorkshire director of cricket, one of his biggest admirers.

“There is pressure on Joe’s shoulders and that’s part of being a successful player at international level,” said Moxon.

“We all know that when people do well they get built up, and Joe’s name is on everyone’s lips at the moment.

“But it definitely won’t change him; Joe will enjoy the accolades and all the good things that come his way, but I know that he’ll continue to work as hard as ever.

“He certainly won’t take anything for granted and is a very level-headed character.”

Amid the appreciations and accolades raining down on Root, it seems remarkable to think that it was only a few short days ago that some were questioning his ability to open for England.

After three lows scores in the position, some pundits said it was too soon to have moved him up the order, a feeling which the man himself has exposed as poppycock.

“Joe had a couple of low scores and you could just sense that the vultures were hovering,” added Moxon.

“He edged one between the wicketkeeper and first slip early in his innings at Lord’s and, if that catch had been taken, I imagine more people would have been questioning whether it was right for him to be opening the batting. But Joe took advantage of that bit of luck and proved he’s capable of opening the innings at Test level.

“He won’t take much notice of what the pundits say in any case because he knows his game better than anybody else and he won’t get carried away by success or get worried about potential criticism.”

As a former England opening batsman, Moxon is eminently qualified to assess the young man’s performance in the position.

He believes Root’s technique is ideally suited to a long career at the highest level.

“Joe has got a very sound technique,” said Moxon.

“I watched quite a lot of the innings on television and the good sign for me was that he was hitting the ball back down the ground straight.

“When he’s hitting the ball like that, it means his game is in good order and he showed all of his qualities.

“The key for Joe is not allowing his hands to get too far away from his body, particularly on the front foot, and making sure that the point of contact is under his head and close to his body.”

Earlier in the series, Root perhaps played a little too hard at the ball.

He is predominantly a back-foot player, and the Australians have tried to target him by bowling full and straight.

“In the first innings at Lord’s, when he was out lbw, Joe threw his hands a little bit hard at the ball and that then created a gap,” explained Moxon.

“If you’re a little bit too pumped up, or a little bit tense, then your hands tend to go hard at the ball, whereas when you’re in control you tend to play the ball later.

“That’s why I was so impressed with his performance in the second innings because he allowed the ball to come to him and didn’t push hard at it.

“Against fast bowling with the new ball, you’re not going to get a full forward stride in, so the key is getting enough to cover any movement by playing it late.”

As Root’s batting matures, heaven knows what he might go on to achieve.

It is why Moxon – in common with all England – is so excited by the prospect.

“The sky is the limit for Joe and I think he will reach the sky because of his work ethic and his honesty with himself,” he added.

“That’s the key; Joe is not going to kid himself and is very good at appraising himself honestly.

“He’s got a big appetite for runs, too, and that’s another sign of a top player.

“I’m just so happy for him and, along with everyone else at Yorkshire, I’m very proud of him too.”