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Root wants to beat ‘Australia’s strongest side’ at the World Cup

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Joe Root is looking forward to taking on the best Australian side on offer at the 2019 World Cup, and beating them.

England are set for a long summer of cricket against their arch-rivals, facing them first in a World Cup warm-up match on May 25 in Southampton, before clashing in the tournament on June 25 at Lord’s. That will be followed by the 2019 Ashes, which begins two weeks after the World Cup, on August 1 at Edgbaston.

“It’s always great to play against Australia – it always notches up slightly. With the Ashes around the corner, it’s something you dream about playing as a kid,” Root told Sky Sports. “I remember, as a 14-year-old [in 2005], sat on the sofa being ill on the last day of the Oval Test match, watching the culmination of that and how powerful that was for me as a cricketer.

“We’ve got an opportunity to do something similar. We’ve got two of the best players [David Warner and Steve Smith] back playing for Australia now; it’s bubbling up very nicely to be a very exciting series, and I’m sure that World Cup game won’t disappoint either.”

Warner and Smith’s returns coincide with a return to peak form of an Australian team that is renowned for bringing it’s ‘A’ game to World Cups. Australia are the defending champions and have won four of the last five editions of the flagship tournament. All through, they have been an unstoppable force, demolishing opposition and establishing themselves as a world-beating side.

England will play Australia in their first warm-up game on Saturday

And while the current Australian team doesn’t quite have the same aura as sides of the past, Root knows what they are capable of. True to their reputation, Australia put behind a woeful patch in ODIs – marked by just three wins in 16 matches since the start of 2018 – in time before the World Cup, when they beat India 3-2 on their limited-overs tour of the country earlier this year, and swept Pakistan 5-0 in the UAE after that.

“We want to beat Australia’s strongest side and those two [Smith and Warner] are definitely in that. It’s a very exciting period for us and we’ve got such a great opportunity to do something very special,” Root said.

“Australia have always had strong squads. They’ve gone into every World Cup right up there in terms of the rankings and depth within their squad for a number of those World Cups and they’ve won pressure moments. So there’s plenty to learn from them as a side.”

Root also reflected on England’s rise to the top of the ODI rankings, and felt they deserved every accolade that has come their way. England have almost unanimously been identified as the team to beat at the World Cup: a far cry from how they went into the previous edition, in Australia and New Zealand, where they exited after a group-stage loss to Bangladesh. Since then, England have won 58 out of the 88 ODIs they have played between the two editions.

“We’ve worked really hard to deserve the tag of the No. 1-ranked team going into the tournament; I think we should enjoy that,” Root said. “We should get a lot of confidence from that and really embrace that and enjoy what we’ve been doing and take it forward into the games.

“The best thing about it is that we are confident, but we are realistic that nothing is ever given to you in this game, and that you are going to have to continue to work very hard. To win a tournament, you have to be consistent as well.”

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