England's Root has Ashes century in his sights in Melbourne

England captain Joe Root has backed himself to get a first Ashes hundred in Australia as he prepares for the third Test starting in Melbourne on Boxing Day, a must-win game if England is to claim the series.

England's Joe Root in action.   -  GETTY IMAGES

England captain Joe Root has backed himself to get a first Ashes hundred in Australia as he prepares for the third Test starting in Melbourne on Boxing Day, a must-win game if England is to claim the series.

Root has already plundered an English record 1,630 Test runs in 2021 and has two half-centuries in the Ashes series so far with 89 in Brisbane, and 62 in Adelaide as his side slipped to two heavy defeats.

He has also seen Australia's Marnus Labuschagne take over his position as the number one batsman in the world after the second Test.

"I feel in a really good place with my batting," Root was quoted as saying by Sky Sports. "I feel confident I can, in these next three games, bang out a hundred in these conditions.

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"I know that's a brave thing to say, but my conversion rate this year, it's not been an issue at all.

"I have an understanding of how I want to score my runs. There's clarity there, I just need to keep putting myself in those positions, just have the bit between my teeth."

Root has yet to score a century in Australia, where he averages under 40, well below his overall Test average of 50.01. His 89 earlier in this series is his highest score Down Under.

But he also expects a response from the team all-around in the Boxing Day (Dec. 26) Test, the start of three must-win games.

"There is plenty of motivation for the group, and we are doing everything we can to make sure it is 2-1 by the time we leave here," Root said.

"If we perform anywhere like we can do, we'll put them (Australia) in an uncomfortable position, we'll push back, and we'll find ourselves in a very different situation leaving this ground."

England bowlers must be braver in third Ashes Test : Root

Captain Joe Root has denied trying to heap the blame on his bowlers for England's poor start to the Ashes series but insists they must be braver with the length of their bowling in the now crucial third test.

The tourists must beat Australia in the Melbourne Test, which starts on Sunday, to have any chance of winning back the Ashes after heavy defeats in Brisbane and Adelaide to open the five-match series.

Root raised eyebrows with his comments after the loss at Adelaide Oval on Monday when he suggested that his seamers should have bowled fuller lengths.

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England's most prolific test wicket-taker, James Anderson, responded in a British newspaper column, conceding the lengths could have been fuller but that it would be wrong to blame the bowlers for the loss.

"It's not about singling players out, or trying to blame one group, collectively we weren't good enough," Root said on Friday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

"I was asked some direct questions after the game, and I answered them. If you'd asked me about our batting, I'd have said something very similar. That's just where we are at, as a team."

Root stood his ground on the subject of bowling for the Melbourne test, however. "(We need) to be able to create pressure by keeping the scoreboard quiet, but also be brave enough to hit the lengths that are going to take you wickets and create chances," he said.

"I did think on occasions we got that slightly wrong, it's not something you can really fault our bowlers of too often because they are exceptional."

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Root was pilloried for his Adelaide comments by former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting, who said the Englishman should have insisted the bowlers bowled fuller.

Pointing out that Anderson and Stuart Broad had more than 300 tests and 1,000 wickets between them, Root said he liked to give his senior bowlers some responsibility for deciding bowling strategies.

"It's not a dictatorship," he said. "Every now and again, we don't always agree on everything, that's fine. Ultimately, it's about coming to a point where you get the results that you want."

Root said there was no problem in the squad as a result of his comments and that he was looking for improvement from the whole team in Melbourne.

"Every now and again you have an off week, and as a team, you are not quite there," he said.

"From my point of view, the disappointing thing was we did it twice in a row, in all facets. I expect a response this week, and I expect the guys out there to deliver."

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