Joe Root will move up the England batting order to number three for their Test series against Pakistan – but how will it affect his scoring?
A revamped top order under new national selector Ed Smith sees the captain move up a place, with his Yorkshire colleague Jonny Bairstow set to bat at number five and the free-scoring Jos Buttler recalled at seven.
Root spoke of his desire to “take on a bit more responsibility” and “make really big runs” – something he certainly achieved when making a career-best 254 at first drop against Pakistan at Old Trafford in July 2016.
His overall record in that position, though, features only one other century – 124 in India later the same year – and an average of 43.96, nearly nine runs down on his career mark.
Root’s Test average is best at number five, a remarkable 73.13, while he also averages more than 50 in his most established position at number four. Those two slots also account for 10 of his 13 Test centuries.
He opened the batting for the 2013 Ashes – as well as one innings against India in 2016 after an injury to Haseeb Hameed – and made 180 at Lord’s but otherwise enjoyed little success and averages 41.70 at the top of the order.
Eight innings at number six between 2012 and 2014 produced just two half-centuries, both against India, and an average of 40.17 while on his one outing at seven – when Steven Finn was promoted as a nightwatchman against New Zealand in 2013 – Root failed to trouble the scorers.
Root’s failure to convert fifties into hundreds – let alone the “really big runs” he craves – has invited ongoing scrutiny in recent years.
He has reached three figures in just a quarter of the innings in which he has passed 50 in his career, 13 out of 52, including two out of 14 since the start of last year and none of his last nine half-centuries.
His career conversion rate drops from 25 per cent to 20 per cent when batting at number three – he has eight other fifties to his name in that spot in addition to the two aforementioned tons.