During England’s comfortable victory over Bangladesh on 10 October, Joe Root further cemented his status as an England legend, overtaking Graham Gooch as England’s leading ODI World Cup run scorer.
He achieved the feat in 18 innings, averaging a remarkable 57.31. If there was any doubt about his place in the side following a sub-par series against New Zealand, he has put that to bed two games into this campaign, particularly considering that his strike rate has been far more akin to the status quo for this new-era England batting lineup.
It almost goes without saying when it comes to Joe Root, but his role in this white-ball side, especially in this World Cup, is crucial. In a side which rarely bowls exceptionally well first up, it often falls on the shoulders of the 32-year-old to anchor a tight run chase.
As a lot of the thinking when it came to picking the squad was to backload the batting lineup with the likes of Sam Curran batting at eight or nine, for England to win there is pressure to build the score, then take key wickets in the powerplay.
An over-reliance on batting first could provide an issue later in the tournament. Root provides the versatility in this regard, where he can bat at the right pace when chasing upwards of 250 on a tough wicket, but also bat at his fluent best in the first innings, regardless of the situation.
Much of the pre-tournament discussion surrounded the nature of the pitches that would be played on. Would England have the nous to resist the temptation to go too hard after the spin on pitches which would likely open up and turn? Would the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin of India prove too much on home soil?
An in-form Joe Root would be England’s antidote to this, as potentially England’s best player of spin. He effortlessly balances scoring quickly – with his masterful shot selection against spin – while elevating his batting partner through his elite strike rotation, crucial in posting strong batting totals.
Joe Root has no shortage of experience at dragging the side to a respectable score
England have demonstrated resolve in previous knockout matches – which will be further bolstered when Ben Stokes returns from injury – but to reach the knockouts England can only afford to lose two more games maximum.
In a tournament where the likes of India and South Africa, as well as the motoring New Zealand are all so strong, England have no room for error against some of the typically poorer-performing teams.
The most likely way of losing to one of these teams would be to have a batting collapse, which isn’t exactly impossible for this England side, but Joe Root has no shortage of experience at dragging the side to a respectable score. Even if he doesn’t top the batting stats for the World Cup, he is a consistent performer, which could prove to be crucial.
Despite the hope for England, the hosts, India, are the favourites, fresh off the back of a dominant Asia Cup triumph. Their strength of bowling and batting experience, alongside a raucous home support, makes them the team to beat.
Nonetheless, the long nature of the tournament does add some scope for a side to peak at the right time. The hope for England fans should rest upon the growing pressure on India to perform on the biggest stage, while consistently improving themselves in the back half of the schedule.
There is undoubtedly the talent in the England side to win any one-off game, but it will take some special performances from Jos Buttler’s men to retain the World Cup.
If Root guides England to another 50-over-tournament triumph however, his legacy will be assured as England’s best-ever player in the modern era.