Last-placed England are ‘man for man’ better than Australia: Joe Root

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England’s woeful World Cup campaign has not prevented Joe Root from claiming they are a better side “man for man” than Australia, who stand ready to knock them out of the tournament on Saturday.

England have lost five matches from six and four in a row to sit bottom of the table, struggling to finish in the top eight to qualify for the 2025 Champions Trophy. They desperately need to find a spark against their old rivals and Root admitted making sure Australia do not knock them out is strong motivation.

England duo Jos Buttler (left) and Joe Root during their Cricket World Cup clash with Sri Lanka.Credit: Getty Images

“Man for man I’d have this team every day over the Australians. We might not have played as well as we can do, but we know when we play our best stuff the best teams struggle to compete with us,” he said.

Australia have thoroughly enjoyed England’s predicament, with Pat Cummins laughing while saying it was “sad to see” their dreadful form. “Let’s face it, if it was the other way around, would we be doing the same? Probably. So it hurts, it always hurts to be in this position to be sat at the bottom of the table,” said Root. “If it motivates us a little bit more great.”

The form of the two sides could not be more different. While England have become whipping boys, Australia have recovered from defeats in their opening two matches to win their next four and are looking to shore up their semi-final position. They were made stronger by the return from injury of Travis Head, who hit a hundred in his first game back in the side against New Zealand last week.

But the past 24 hours may have evened the contest with Australia hit by two big blows in losing their aggressive, big-hitting all-rounders Mitchell Marsh and Glenn Maxwell. Marsh, who smoked an Ashes hundred at Leeds in June, has gone home briefly for personal reasons and Maxwell suffered a freakish injury falling off a golf buggy; the kind of hapless incident you expect to happen to England at the moment.

If England can break through early against the dangerous Head and David Warner, they will not fear Australia hurting them with the bat. Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne can drag an innings down in ODI cricket, with realistically room for one but not both in the same team.

However, at the moment you would not trust England to chase 200 as soon as Australia apply any pressure with the ball after their top order collapsed with four for nine runs against India on Sunday, which included ducks for Root and Ben Stokes.

The opening partnership between Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow has not clicked while Root has cobbled together just 16 in four innings after starting with scores of 77 and 82. Jos Buttler is averaging 17.5 and Stokes 16. The big guns have fallen silent.

Root joined the chorus of England voices unable to pinpoint what had gone wrong but feels he has been unlucky. He left the field raging on Sunday after being given out leg before, pointing at the big screen after Ultra Edge had shown up a faint noise of ball on bat.

Indian paceman Jasprit Bumrah celebrates taking Joe Root’s wicket in their big win over England.Credit: Getty Images

Seeing him, of all players, lose his cool revealed how much pressure England were feeling.

“I feel really good about my game, it’s been really frustrating. I’ve had a silly run out, a caught leg-slip which is pretty unusual in this format and – I’ll be careful how I say this – a dubious lbw decision in the last game,” he said.

“That’s sometimes how it goes. Unfortunately, the role I have in this team, it’s been really disappointing to not be more consistent. That’s what I expect of myself.”

England will have to win two of their final three games to qualify for the Champions Trophy – an unthinkable turn of events when the tournament started.

Beating Australia would give them a huge lift and ease the pressure on coach Matthew Mott going into the final week of the group stage when they play Netherlands and Pakistan before going home to start the inquest.

Telegraph, London

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