Spotlight on Smith and Root on Ashes stage

Spotlight on Smith and Root on Ashes stage

LONDON – Agence France-Presse
Spotlight on Smith and Root on Ashes stage

Two of the world’s best batsmen will be in opposition when Australia’s Steve Smith and England’s Joe Root both lead their countries for the first time in an Ashes Test at Brisbane on Nov. 23.

Smith may be an unorthodox run-scorer but he is currently top of the Test batting rankings and Root, a more classical stylist, is second in that table.

Shoring up a fallible top order is something both Smith, with assistance from David Warner, and Root, backed up by a left-handed opener of his own in Alastair Cook, have got used to in recent months.

If either star batsman struggles for runs, it is liable to damage their team’s prospects and add to the pressure that confronts most captains in an Ashes series.

At 28, Smith is two years older than Root and the more experienced captain, having led Australia in 26 Tests, whereas Root has just come off his first home season as skipper. After series wins over South Africa and the West Indies, the Ashes is the Yorkshireman’s first overseas tour at the helm.

Neither of the two captains is known for especially unusual tactics, while they’ve each shown it is possible to play aggressive cricket without resorting to over-the-top “sledging,” verbal abuse.

When Smith was recalled to the Australia side during the 2010-2011 Ashes series, he said: “I’ve been told that I’ve got to come into the side and be fun.”

That led to mocking taunts of “Tell us a joke, Smithy” from England when he came out to bat.

He was dropped soon afterwards but fought his way back into the Australia side during the 2013-2014 Ashes.