x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

England target second Ashes Test win as Joe Root digs in

At 22, the youngest Ashes Test centurion at Lord's says he will play with 'small targets' with another 22 needed for his double century.

Joe Root, right, celebrates his century, the youngest to do so at Lord's in an Ashes Test, during the third day's play. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo
Joe Root, right, celebrates his century, the youngest to do so at Lord's in an Ashes Test, during the third day's play. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo
Joe Root will not be thinking about scoring an Ashes double-century when he resumes for England against Australia at Lord's on Sunday.

Root goes into the fourth day of the second Test unbeaten on 178 with England leading by a massive 566 after ending the third day on 333 for five.

But the Yorkshireman is thinking more about his team, who will be looking to take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series against Australia by taking victory at Lord's.

Root told Sky Sports: "I'm not thinking too far ahead. I'm just thinking of small targets like I've done all game."

After England had lost three quick wickets last night, the pressure was on, but Root responded to the challenge, batting watchfully and later kicking on after passing a century for the first time at Lord's as an England player.

"We knew going into today that we were going to have to play some really good cricket," he said. "We had to scrap for a bit and earn the right to score runs later in the day."

Of his century, Root added: "It was pretty special. As a kid growing up, playing in the Ashes is the pinnacle and to get a hundred, at Lord's as well, is a nice feeling.

"It was tough. They bowled really well all morning."

Together with Yorkshire colleague Tim Bresnan, who made an admirable 38 as nightwatchman, he put on 99 before sharing a fifth-wicket stand of 153 with first-innings century-maker Ian Bell (74).

Jonathan Bairstow (11 not out) had helped Root add 51 for the sixth wicket at stumps.

Australia will therefore begin day four with any notion of a series-levelling victory surely long gone, already needing to exceed the highest fourth-innings chase in the history of first-class cricket, and on perilous course instead to go 2-0 down with three to play.

For Root, Sunday's runs were a bonus after his 41 runs in three previous attempts since his elevation for the start of this series.

Root, who was picked as opener at the expense of Nick Compton, said he was not concerned at which place in the order he was asked to play.

"It doesn't really matter where you play," he said. "I just want to keep scoring as many runs as I can for England."

Root, 22, had 18 from 60 balls when he reconvened on a cloudy morning with Bresnan; seven hours later, he had become England's youngest Ashes centurion at Lord's and had 18 fours and two sixes against his name. His 334-ball innings was chanceless.

He also became the first to go past 1,000 first-class runs this season when he reached 70 on another day when nothing consented to go Australia's way. The tourists' lot was already deeply unenviable when, with England's lead at 373, they had a bona fide wicket chalked off.

Bell survived on three - after consultation with third umpire Tony Hill - when it seemed Steve Smith had taken a low catch as England's first-innings centurion fenced Ryan Harris to gully.

The significance of the reprieve was questionable, with England in control, but in a series full of contentious moments, this decision was as unfathomable as any.

Bell soon accelerated beyond an 82-ball 50, to add to his back-to-back hundreds in his last two Ashes innings.

As the Australians evidently flagged, more than 70 runs came in 10 overs. And even after Bell had smashed a long-hop from Smith straight into the hands of midwicket, the only recourse was to delay the second new ball in the hope that the old one might be slightly harder to hit.

If that was the tactic, it did little to halt the runs as Root dominated a second all-Yorkshire stand of 50 or more after he was joined by Jonny Bairstow.

The spinners, on a pitch which had already proved to Graeme Swann's liking for England, were in the firing line - and 18 runs from Smith's penultimate over of the day included Root's two slog-swept sixes.

Alastair Cook never looked likely to be considering a declaration as he and his teammates, still track-suited rather than in whites, lapped up the spectacle on the pavilion balcony.

The only good news that came Australia's way was after the day when it was revealed that England's dangerous batsman Kevin Pietersen is in doubt for the next Test because of a calf strain.


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