Joe Root didn’t back away from the contentious calls to bat first in the Ashes 2021-22 series opener when conditions appeared to heavily favour the bowlers or a team selection that omitted England’s two most experienced pacemen.
One regret he had after England’s nine-wicket loss to Australia at the Gabba on Saturday was not giving left-arm spinner Jack Leach more protection against some aggressive batting.
Leach was punished by the batsmen, conceding 102 runs for one wicket and going for almost eight runs per over on a pitch that didn’t take much conventional turn but did offer plenty of bounce to suit Australian spinner, Nathan Lyon.
Travis Head, who scored 152, and David Warner, who scored 94 in Australia’s first innings of 425, were mainly attacking against Leach, who was playing his first Test since March and his first ever in Australian conditions.
Root said setting a more defensive field would have helped Leach gain some confidence and “ease into the series.”
“I put a lot of that on myself … made it very difficult for him and it’s probably more on my shoulders than looking at the selection,” he said.
Leach’s place in the starting XI was only confirmed at the coin toss, with England hoping to get a more varied attack by leaving out fast bowler Stuart Broad.
It didn’t help that England wasn’t defending many runs, having lost a wicket on the first ball of the series and been dismissed for 147 just before heavy rain ended play on Day 1.
“If we go about things the way we did on the last two tours, we’ll get the same result,” Root said, reflecting on England’s last two tours to Australia, which included nine losses, one draw and no wins. “We have to be brave. I look back and think (batting) was the right decision.
“In terms of selection, we could have gone a different way (but) we wanted variety in our attack and ways of changing things.”
He also spoke about Ben Stokes and warned the Aussies ahead of the second Test. The all-rounder scored 14 and 5 and returned wicketless.
“I’m pretty sure he’ll be fit for Adelaide and one thing, you write Ben Stokes off at your own peril,” said Root after his team’s loss in the first Test on December 11. “He’d be desperate to get back into this series and have a big say in how it all turns out.”