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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 13 November 2018

Joe Root must find his best form if England are to beat India

No Test hundreds since August 2017 for England's captain as he prepares to guide his side against the No 1 side in the world

England captain Joe Root has not scored a hundred for 12 months. Action Images via Reuters
England captain Joe Root has not scored a hundred for 12 months. Action Images via Reuters

As bad signs go you could forgive India cricket fans for fearing the worst last month when England's football side went on their run to the semi-final of the World Cup in Russia.

The last time that happened was in the summer of 1990 and England's cricketers, or at least one of them, kept up the country's momentum when they took on India in a Test series that started 22 days after West Germany had eliminated their footballing counterparts from the tournament in Italy.

Graham Gooch struck 333 in the first innings at Lord's as he took apart India's attack. His 456 runs in total in the match remains a Test record.

Gooch's efforts would set up a comfortable victory for England, which ultimately proved decisive in the series as the other two matches ended in draws.

What Joe Root, England's captain, would give for something similar when the first Test at Edgbaston against India starts on Wednesday.

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No Englishman has scored a triple hundred since Gooch and while that would be a dream for Root, he is probably keeping his ambitions a little more realistic.

From a captaincy perspective, the simple goal for Root will be to win the match, while ideally scoring a few runs himself.

Given his batting struggles this year in the long form of the game, Root would settle for 456 runs in the series let alone 456 in a match.

This is a tricky time for Root. England are a side going through a rebuilding period, still trying to find established replacements in key positions for players who were part of the team that topped the Test rankings in 2011.

Seven years on and Root's side now go up against in India - the current top dogs in Test cricket.

Consistency has been the biggest issue since Root took over as captain in February 2017. Only on one occasion in 16 Tests under his command have England produced back-to-back victories.

A post shared by Joe Root (@root66) on

Root's own form has declined since taking the captaincy. It started with a bang in July last year when he hit 190 in his first match as captain against South Africa at Lord's.

But since then there has only been one other hundred, against the West Indies 12 months ago, and he has not passed three figures in his past 19 innings.

He is not the first batsmen to have his form dip given the additional responsibility of the captaincy.

His immediate predecessors, Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, both toiled at the time with the bat, but they were perhaps more fortunate then Root in being able to rely on teammates to score the runs.

Root does not have that. Cook only has two hundreds, both doubles, in the past two years, while Keaton Jennings and Dawid Malan are yet to fully establish themselves in the side.

Up against the best Test side in the world, it is hard to imagine England avoiding defeat without Root contributing well.

He is his side's leading batsman. When he has his eye in he can be exhilarating to watch and his stroke play can take a game away from an opposition in a session.

His shot selection can be questionable at times, however, and his failure to kick on after getting starts is an issue.

Since that last century against the West Indies at Edgbaston he has passed 50 on 10 occasions without going on to get the century - an awful conversion rate for someone with his talent.

England's inability to regularly reach big totals is continuing to put them under pressure and there are only so many times James Anderson and Stuart Broad can rescue them with the ball.

England need more runs, and their captain, given his natural ability, is best placed to deliver them.

There is a lot of focus on Root's opposite number, Virat Kohli, and whether he can score well in English conditions.

But the hosts also need Root to prove he has not lost his touch in the five-day format of the game with a big summer otherwise it could well be India celebrating when the series comes to a close at The Oval in September.