England have set newer benchmarks with the bat in white-ball cricket. But the tale has been quite the opposite with the willow in Tests, where they seem to have hit levels of new lows with every outing. Their batting against the red ball can be split into two contrasting halves - captain Joe Root’s golden run and the dismal rest.
Joe Root has climbed to the no.2 spot in the ICC Test batsman rankings. He has 1,277 runs in the 2021 calendar year, which includes five three-figure scores. To give you perspective on Root’s dominance, the second on the list is India’s Rohit Sharma, with 690 runs in three lesser innings.
But that’s about it for England batting. It’s all about Joe Root. The absence of Ben Stokes, the ranked 14th Test batsman, only compounds the woes.
According to the ICC Test rankings, England’s next-best batsman is Rory Burns, placed at 28, followed by Jos Buttler at 33. In contrast, their current opponents India have five batters in the top 20.
Joe Root has piled on 386 runs at an average of almost 129 in the two Tests of the ongoing India-England Test series. But no other England batter has scored that many runs in the entire calendar year. In fact, in the current series, England's next best batsman is Jonny Bairstow, who averages 29.
Joe Root vs England’s next four top scorers in 2021
The above chart illustrates England’s handicaps in a format that they have historically prioritized the most.
Although Joe Root’s brilliance did hide England’s weakness in the first few Tests this year, the effects of the overburden on one man became evident as the side played more. We look at the 14 batting collapses England suffered in the 10 Tests that England played this year.
Sri Lanka vs England, 1st Test, Galle
First innings: 372 for 4 to 421 all out | 6 wickets for 49 runs
When Joe Root and Dan Lawrence were batting, it seemed that England were on course for an innings victory. Jos Buttler got out when the score was 372 and England were bowled out for 421, which means they lost six wickets for just 49 runs. England won the Test by seven wickets.
Joe Root scored 229 of England’s 497 runs in Test, i.e. 46.1%.
Sri Lanka vs England, 2nd Test, Galle
First innings: 333 for 6 to 344 all out | 4 wickets for 11 runs
Once again, Joe Root had little support from the England tail, resulting in the visitors conceding a first-innings lead. A poor second innings from Sri Lanka helped England come back strong and win the Test by six wickets.
Joe Root scored 187 of England’s 508 runs in Test, i.e. 36.8%.
India vs England, 1st Test, Chennai
Second innings: 165 for 6 to 178 all out | 4 wickets for 13 runs
A strong first innings helped England seal the Test, but the batting collapse remained a feature in the second innings as well. England won their first three Tests of 2021, but the habit of batting collapses led to their fall thereon.
Joe Root carried the side’s batting again. This time, he scored 258 runs of England’s 756 runs in the Test, i.e. 34.1%.
India vs England, 2nd Test, Chennai
England scores: 134 & 164
On a surface that turned from the first session of the Test, England failed even to stitch a single stand of even 40 runs in the Test as they fell to a 317-run defeat.
India vs England, 3rd Test, Ahmedabad (D/N)
First innings: 74 for 2 to 112 all out | 8 wickets for 38 runs
Second innings: 81 all out
Electing to bat in the new stadium, England began well with Zack Crawley exhibiting brilliant stroke-play. England's batting collapse began towards the end of the first session after local boy Akshar Patel wreaked havoc on a surface with plenty of assistance for spinners. Joe Root was the third wicket to fall on 74, Crawley fell next at 80 after striking a fine fifty, and the team was bowled out for 112.
India managed only a 33-run lead, but England collapsed for 81 in the second innings, handing India a 10-wicket win and a 2-1 lead in the series. England’s terrible batting display ensured the Test getting over inside two days.
India vs England, 4th Test, Ahmedabad
First innings: 166 for 5 to 205 all out | 5 wickets for 39 runs
Second innings: 135 all out
England’s shambolic batting display continued in the next Test. Exhibiting a terrible skill-set against the Indian spinners, they failed in both innings to fall to an innings defeat. Despite starting with 0-1, England’s batting helped India take the series 3-1 and soar to the top of the World Test Championship (WTC) points table.
England vs New Zealand, 1st Test, Lord’s
First innings: Collapsed to 112 for 2 to 140 for 6 | 4 wickets for 28 runs
England could have started their home season on a positive note if their batting had lent support in the first innings of the first England-New Zealand Test at Lord’s. Dom Sibley got a nought and Zack Crawley managed just two. Rory Burns scored a hundred and found a partner in Joe Root, who scored 42.
From 112 for two at one stage, England found themselves at 140 for six. Although Burns found some support from debutant Ollie Robinson, the lower order effort wasn’t enough to concede a 103-run lead.
New Zealand had set England a target of 273 at a required rate of under four an over, but England were happy to block it out and not go for a win. Perhaps the lack of willingness to win had more to do with Joe Root’s lack of confidence in his batters.
England vs New Zealand, 2nd Test, Birmingham
Second innings: 122 all out
The Test was evenly poised after the first innings, with New Zealand managing a 85-run lead. England’s batting efforts in the second innings handed the Test and the series to the visitors. They were bowled out for 122, which meant New Zealand needed 38 to win. The victory gave New Zealand their first series win in England in 22 years. England had now lost consecutive Test series after a dream start to 2021 with a hat-trick of Test wins.
England vs India, 1st Test, Nottingham
First innings: 138 for 3 to 183 all out | 7 wickets for 45 runs
Electing to bat, England gave away the advantage in the final session of the first day. Joe Root was again the difference. Sam Curran's late flourish helped England add some crucial runs as they crossed 180. Despite a better showing with the bat in the second innings, England could only set a 209-run target. India looked well on course for the chase, but rain spoilt their party.
Joe Root scored 173 of England’s 486 runs in Test, i.e. 35.6%.
England vs India, 2nd Test, Lord’s
First innings: 341 for 5 to 391 all out | 5 wickets for 50 runs
Second innings: 120 all out
It's not often a side loses after securing a first-innings lead at home. But with a bunch of inconsistent batters in their ranks, even Joe Root’s genius couldn’t prevent a defeat. It’s a shame that the English captain ran out of partners in the first innings, or else they could have further built on the lead. England’s last four contributed just 11 runs.
An inspired effort from the Indian tail got the side back into the Test, but all England had to do was play out 60 overs. In India, they struggled against spin, and here the Indian pacers had mighty laughs as the hosts struggled against the moving ball and got bundled out for 120.
Joe Root scored 213 of England’s 511 runs in Test, i.e. 41.7%.