Joe Root is banking on England’s golden generation of senior players providing the spark which will keep his team in the Ashes.
England will begin the third Test in danger of losing the urn before Christmas unless they can rewrite history at a venue which has proved such barren terrain for almost half-a-century.
The tourists have won just once at the WACA, set to stage its last Ashes Test, since their first visit in 1970 – and from 2-0 down with three to play this winter, they need at least a draw this week to stay in the series.
Root acknowledges the situation is critical and the stakes high, of course, in a campaign which has been beset by off-the-field controversy to accompany two wide-margin defeats.
A midnight curfew has been in place for much of the past two weeks, after the destabilising furore over Jonny Bairstow’s ‘headbutt’ greeting for Australia opener Cameron Bancroft on the first night of the tour – then immediately after it was relaxed, revisiting the same Perth bar, Ben Duckett poured a drink over James Anderson’s head.
Since then, England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison has emailed the entire squad to remind them of their responsibilities.
Root cannot afford those distractions to persist any longer as he tries to focus minds on the onerous task ahead – and he is hoping Stuart Broad and record-breaking pair Anderson and Alastair Cook have it in them to take England’s performance here to a new level.
“We know what’s at stake … the enormity of it,” he said.
“The real thing to hit home here is it’s an opportunity to create history… a real chance to flip the dynamics of this series on their head – and if we do come away 2-1 from this game, it does blow the series wide open.”
The golden generation of thirty-somethings will perhaps soon start to turn silver – but in Broad and Anderson, about to play their 100th Test together, and opener Cook preparing for his national-record 150th, the pedigree is undeniable.
“It probably will take one of the senior players to grasp that and really take it on and do something special this game, and there is no reason why we can’t do that,” added Root.
“When it is as big a game as this, your senior players probably are under a little bit more pressure than the rest… because there is that expectation there, they’ve done it before and have all that experience to call upon.
“We are very fortunate to have him (Cook) and Jimmy and Stuart who have done some very special things – record-breakers in terms of English cricket.
“To have them playing in the same side – around young guys to learn from them and to see how they operate day in, day out – can only be invaluable.”
Anderson recalled his bar-room dousing from Duckett in a newspaper column which also covered England’s slow start with the ball to the second Test in Adelaide, where he hinted better communication with the coaching staff might have helped.
Root is having little of that, though.
“I think the relationship has been really good,” he said.
“We got it wrong on the field… we all knew that was the case, and it’s probably slightly harsh to put the blame on to the coaches.
“I think ultimately us guys on the field, we’re the ones responsible for what we are doing out there.
“We have to be smarter, react quicker. I take responsibility for that as well, as captain.”
England named an unchanged line-up for the third Test, but Bairstow has been promoted one place up the batting order to number six.
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