Is Root losing ground on world’s best batsmen?
IT would have been too little, too late, but Joe Root missed an opportunity to redeem himself this series just minutes before stumps on day one of the New Year's Test at the SCG.
The England skipper was on course for his first century of the series, but fell for 83 late in the day after being caught by Mitchell Marsh off the bowling of Mitchell Starc. Root batted for 226 minutes and it took 141 balls for him to reach his highest score of the series, but for the fourth time he failed to convert his half-century into a ton.
It's becoming a worrying trend for the batsman and his disappointing series has seen him fast fall off the pace of Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Steve Smith as the world's best crop of batters.
Many had expected him to go toe-to-toe with Smith this series, but his Australian counterpart has comfortably won that battle.
The contrasting form of Smith and Root has arguably been the difference all series. While Smith has gone to make three centuries, including that magnificent double-ton in Perth, Root has so far failed to convert his four half-centuries into bigger scores.
It reflects Root's overall conversion rate of fifties into centuries at just 27 per cent. Smith, on the other hand, has a conversion rate of over 50 per cent. The Australian skipper has thrived with the added leadership responsibility, averaging an incredible 76.31 since taking over as captain, while Root has previously said he needs to take a lesson from his Australian counterpart when it comes to leading from the front.
But Dawid Malan, who spent the bulk of the day batting with Root, has no doubt his captain will soon overcome his failure to convert.
"The day will come when he does start converting them as well as Steve Smith does, or the other greats," Malan said. "When that happens it will be scary how good he can be and how high his average will jump to."
With the series already lost and the pressure off, Root got himself off to a good start at the SCG. He played a patient knock on a day that England dominated until Australia took new ball with three overs remaining.
After winning the toss and electing to bat first under grey skies, the visitors did well to weather the pitch after rain delayed the start of play. They should have capitalised early on when the son finally shone down on the SCG, but again their opening batsmen failed to convert good starts, with wickets falling at regular intervals in the first session.
Mark Stoneman (24) and James Vince (25) both fell to Pat Cummins, while Alistair Cook, fresh from his unbeaten 244 at the MCG, was out leg before on review to Josh Hazlewood for 39.
At tea, England were 3-122 with Root and Dawid Malan in the middle and the two reached their 100-run partnership in 166 minutes. Malan is still there, unbeaten on 55, with England 5-233 at stumps.