The Ashes - Middle-order batting key to hosts nicking the urn, says Yorkshire CCC chief

England captain Joe Root speaks at a press conference during the nets session at Edgbaston, Birmingham, ahead of the first Ashes Test (Picture: PA)
England captain Joe Root speaks at a press conference during the nets session at Edgbaston, Birmingham, ahead of the first Ashes Test (Picture: PA)
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FORMER ASHES batsman Martyn Moxon is backing Joe Root’s England to reclaim the urn.

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Martyn Moxon: Believes Joe Root is leading from the front by stepping up to No 3. (Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

Martyn Moxon: Believes Joe Root is leading from the front by stepping up to No 3. (Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

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Moxon, who played one Ashes Test in 1989, is predicting that they will win the series 3-2.

Root’s men were beaten 4-0 Down Under in the last Ashes series of 2017-2018, but the Yorkshire director of cricket believes it will be much closer this time.

Joe batting at No 3 puts a different slant on things and puts him maybe slightly under the spotlight a bit more, but I know he’s capable of handling that.

Martyn Moxon

“It’s difficult to call, but I think England have got enough if they play to their capabilities,” he said. “I think we’re all-round probably a little bit stronger, but I think it’s really wide open going into it with England probably slight favourites.

“A lot depends on the weather, obviously, but if the weather’s good, I can’t see many or indeed any draws, so I’d say 3-2 England.”

Moxon is not alone in forecasting that score. Former England captain Alastair Cook also thinks that the hosts will win 3-2, as does the BBC cricket correspondent and former Leicestershire and England pace bowler Jonathan Agnew.

Michael Vaughan, the former Yorkshire batsman and England’s Ashes-winning captain of 2005, feels it could be 3-2 either way. Even Glenn McGrath, the ex-Australia pace bowler who normally predicts 5-0 to Australia for a pastime, is hedging his bets, saying: “I’m not sure on the scoreline”.

With both sides possessing outstanding bowlers, Moxon believes it will boil down to which team bats best.

“Who bats best is key,” he said. “I think that’s what it’s going to come down to because both bowling attacks are pretty strong; it’s which team’s batsmen can get the most runs.

“Australia haven’t won here since 2001, so they’ve struggled to bat in English conditions. If our middle order fires as well… that could be key, and it’s why I think we’ll eventually win the series.”

Much will depend on Root, who Moxon has watched develop into one of the world’s best batsmen. The Yorkshireman has looked in fine form this year, starting with some splendid displays in the Championship and continuing into England’s white-ball summer.

Moxon also welcomes Root’s decision to move from his favoured No 4 slot to No 3, thereby stiffening an inexperienced top-order featuring Rory Burns, Jason Roy and Joe Denly.

“Joe batting at No 3 puts a different slant on things and puts him maybe slightly under the spotlight a bit more, but I know he’s capable of handling that,” said Moxon.

“I think it’s a good move; Joe actually grew up as an opener, so he’s used to facing the new ball, and although he’s had success obviously at No 4 and No 5 as well, in addition to No 3, I’ve always thought that’s he’s capable of opening the innings in Test cricket.

“He has the ability to bat in different positions, and I think particularly given the situation we’re in with the top order at the moment, it seems to make sense for him to take on that responsibility of going to No 3.

“You’ve got to lead from the front, haven’t you, and that’s what he’s doing.”

Asked why England are struggling to find consistently successful top-order Test batsmen, Moxon said: “I think there’s a lot of reasons.

“The proliferation of white-ball cricket and the importance of that now in the modern game is a big part of it.

“The difference in technique and mentality that’s required for those formats and red-ball is totally different, it really is.

“And players are struggling to adapt – simple as that.”