Root targets Smith with veiled insult
HE didn't quite call Steve Smith a flat-track bully, but England captain Joe Root said his team would put the returning Aussie star's technique against a moving ball to the test when the Ashes gets underway at Edgbaston.
Smith has been the leading run scorer in the past two Ashes series, pummelling 687, at a staggering average of 137, in Australia in 2017/18.
That came after he scored 508, including a massive 215 at Lords, in 2015 as Australia lost 3-2.
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Smith hasn't played a Test match since South Africa last year and Root conceded the now 30-year-old batting genius, who has a career average of 61, was a "proven world class performer".
But the English captain, who has elevated himself to No.3 in England's batting order to help shore up his team's fragile top four, put Smith firmly in the crosshairs ahead of his Test return.
"He's a proven world-class performer, a fantastic player," Root said.
"It will be interesting to see how it unfolds throughout the series. Last time they came, when the wickets were very good and flat he made it really count and made two very big hundreds.
"When it moved around it looked slightly different.
"So it'll be interesting to see how he approaches and tries to combat the movement out there and we can exploit anything early on."
Looking to do the exploiting will be veteran English seamer Jimmy Anderson, who plenty believe remains the key to a home side victory.
Despite being 37, and hitting the series on the back of a calf injury, Root said Anderson, England's all-time leading wicket taker was getting better with age.
"He's had a couple of niggles over the last couple of years but every time he's come back stronger," Root said.
"You look at the workload he had over in Australia for example (where Anderson bowler 223 overs for his 17 wickets), I think he proved a point out there, he was by far our best seamer throughout the course of the five games.
"And the last couple for years in England he's proven to be very difficult to come up against.
"Although it might be his birthday (Anderson turned 37 on Tuesday), he seems to continue to keep that desire and hunger and no signs of slowing down."