Sheffield's Joe Root thrilled to have Ben Stokes back by his side ahead of England's Ashes test in Australia

Sheffield’s Joe Root begins his journey to the Ashes this week with a thirst to finally conquer Australia – and, in the process, cement his reputation as one of the greatest England batsmen of all time.

Monday, 1st November 2021, 11:22 am
Updated Monday, 1st November 2021, 11:22 am
Joe Root poses with his PCA Men's Player of the Year award at his home club, Sheffield Collegiate (Jan Kruger/Getty Images for PCA)

The England skipper, who hails from Dore and came through the system at Sheffield Collegiate CC, is yet to make a century Down Under for his country and if England are to have any chance of pulling off an unlikely away Ashes victory this winter, their talisman will surely have to correct that particular anomaly in a remarkale career to date.

The 30-year-old’s spirits were lifted further recently with a phone call from his great friend and teammate Ben Stokes, declaring himself ready for Australia after a spell out of the game to nurse a damaged finger and focus on his mental health.

And both men will be key to England’s hopes, with history suggesting that at least one player must have a history-defining tour if the tourists are going to prevail in Australia.

England's captain Joe Root (OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

“It’s the one series every player is desperate to perform in,” Root said of the Ashes.

“To have a series like Cooky [Alastair Cook, 766 runs in 2010/11] for example, or Chris Broad [with hundreds in three successive Tests in 1986/87] all those years ago.

“That volume of runs is what you dream of. The two previous tours I think if anything I probably got a bit too desperate. I think that extra bit of experience off the back of a fruitful year for me personally puts me in a better place.”

Root has already had an impressive 2021, scoring six hundreds in 12 Tests, and this winter’s Ashes may be a seminal moment in his career. England have lost eight of the nine Tests he has played Down Under since his debut in 2012, and his average of 38 in Australia is a way off his career one of over 50.

Joe Root and Ben Stokes of England punch gloves in the middle (Gareth Copley/Getty Images for ECB)

Having Stokes – his vice-captain, talisman and mate – back by his side will help.

“I’d got an inkling,” Root told The Guardian about Stokes’ return, which was announced recently.

“I’d had some good conversations with Ben over the period while he’s not been playing. It was just such a joy to hear him speak, you could almost hear his smile, if that makes sense, down the phone. You could tell he was so much happier within himself. Just the fact he feels he’s in a place where he’s ready to play cricket again is the most exciting thing.”

“We made it very clear to Ben: ‘It’s got to be right for you’,” Root added.

“You have to be in the right space to go and play, physically and mentally. One thing about Ben, he’s very honest, he won’t shirk any difficult conversations and he’s been true to that through the whole thing. We have been through a lot on and off the field.

"To see him now back in a place where he is able to enjoy his cricket again and feel more himself, that’s the best part of the whole thing. It’s just really exciting.”