JOE ROOT reaches the one-month anniversary of England’s World Cup triumph knowing he must find a way of dismissing Steve Smith.
As they return to the Home of Cricket — scene of their global one-day glory on July 14 — operation ‘Shift Smith’ is the No 1 priority.
There can be no lingering thoughts of fatigue, burnout or a comedown from the wonderful, but draining, high of their super over success against New Zealand at Lord’s.
That is done, it is The Ashes that count now.
Some of the stars of the 50-over tournament must start to deliver again.
For example, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler — neither of whom has even reached double figures in the intervening month — have to score runs over the next few days.
England have Test matches to win, an urn to regain and a captain’s reputation to enhance.
Because the stark reality is that Root will never be regarded as an outstanding captain unless he and his bowlers can dispatch Smith cheaply.
England Test skippers are judged mainly by their Ashes performances and Root’s record so far reads: played six, lost five, drawn one.
Smith is almost single-handedly responsible for Root’s frustrations. In those six matches, he has 973 runs at an average of 139.
How Hoggard would get Smith out
MATTHEW HOGGARD – one of England’s heroes from the 2005 Ashes win – has revealed how he would bowl to Smith.
Hoggy said: “I think you have to attack his off-stump and if you have to set a defensive field to him and bowl at his stump then do so because you know he’s going to want to attack across onto his leg-side.
“Put 5 fielders on the leg-side and make him hit it on the off-side.
“They’re going to have to do something different, I don’t like hanging the ball outside of his off stump because there’s only one way of dismissal then and that’s caught, I still think you have to bring every mode of dismissal into play.
“But he is a world class batter and that’s why it’s called ‘test’ cricket because it’s testing and at the minute, he’s testing a lot of our bowlers.”
Hoggard spoke exclusively to bookie SportNation.bet. For the latest cricket betting click HERE.
Root and his bowlers have four more Test matches — spread over the next five weeks — to send Australia’s run machine into malfunction mode and stop the old enemy retaining The Ashes.
If Smith continues to pile on the runs, the feel-good memory of that World Cup triumph will ebb further away.
England have brought in left-arm spinner Jack Leach and out-and-out speedster Jofra Archer for the Second Test.
They are two types of bowler against whom Smith is perceived to be slightly more vulnerable.
Root is a more instinctive cricket thinker than his predecessor Alastair Cook but has yet to assert his authority on the job in the way Eoin Morgan does in the white-ball format. Smith is turning into his nemesis.
He admits England got it wrong against Smith in the First Test because they were too impatient. He says Smith’s tics and twitches can get into bowlers’ brains.
Root explained: “He tries to put you off in a way, to make it look extremely different for bowlers so you have to think outside the box.
“But you have to look beyond that. Look at his dismissals — they are not far away from every other batsmen’s, edging catches and that sort of thing.
“So one thing we could have done better — and that applies to me as captain — was to stick to a plan for a little longer, give it more chance to work.
“He played and missed 18 times in that first innings at Edgbaston so our plans were working.
“But we need to do them for longer and be a little more patient. We tried to chase things a little, especially in the second innings.”
Archer’s firepower could unsettle Smith and the other Aussie batsmen.
Archer claims Smith was reluctant to face him in the nets earlier this year when they were team-mates for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL.
Root added: “It’s not always pleasant facing Jofra’s short balls but it’s very exciting to stand at slip.
He’s a very skilful young guy. He can swing the ball both ways, has a good bouncer and bowls consistently at a good pace.
“I’m sure he’ll cause problems on most surfaces but you try to use your whole armoury. I’m fully confident the whole bowling group has everything it takes to get out all their batsmen.”
And Root bristled when confronted with England’s disappointing recent Test record against the Aussies.
He insisted: “I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. That last Ashes series in Australia was a long time ago, it’s a very different squad of players.
“We’re in English conditions and back ourselves to perform and come back strong after last week. We’ve proved time and time again that we do that after a defeat, especially at home.
“I’m expecting a big response from the boys. Last week will have hurt and everyone will be absolutely desperate to win this week. And I expect nothing less.”
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LIKELY LINE-UPS — ENGLAND: Burns, Roy, Root (capt), Denly, Buttler, Stokes, Bairstow (wkt), Woakes, Archer, Broad, Leach.
AUSTRALIA: Warner, Bancroft, Khawaja, Smith, Head, Wade, Paine (capt/wkt), Cummins, Siddle, Lyon, Hazlewood.
ENGLAND and Australia will go red in honour of Andrew Strauss’ wife, who died of cancer in December.
The second day of the Test is dedicated to the Ruth Strauss Foundation. Players will wear red caps and red numbers.