STONEWALLING is not really in Joe Root’s nature.
So when Australia’s lippy off-spinner Nathan Lyon sent down his pre-Ashes wrong ’un in an attempt to unsettle the Poms, England’s captain met it with a smile and jibe.
Remembering their time as team-mates in Adelaide, Root said: “I played club cricket with him for Prospect . . . at the time we weren’t sure who was the first spinner!”
Root’s off-breaks are only rolled out occasionally while Lyon’s have taken 269 Test wickets, so this was vintage pre-Ashes stuff — the stately Pom cuffing the mouthy shackle-dragger from the outback.
Lyon’s attack, in which he had accused England of being ‘scared from one to 11’ of speed demon Mitchell Johnson during their 2013-14 whitewash here, was bizarre, irrelevant and transparent, according to Root.
In his first overseas series as captain, the 26-year-old does not speak like a man scarred by history or overawed by the present.
Even though an inexperienced England, with three Ashes rookies in their top five and without their talisman Ben Stokes, are bidding to become the first team to beat Australia in Brisbane since 1988.
He insisted England’s players must not try to impersonate the bullish Stokes, they must embrace the hype and hostility of Brisbane’s ‘Gabbatoir’ and they must remember exactly which nation had won four of the last five Ashes series.
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Root said: “One thing Australia did very well last time was talking up certain things and they delivered. We have to make sure we don’t give them that opportunity this time.
“Last time round we went there from a year when we hadn’t lost a Test and with a very experienced side with a lot of guys who had won a lot of Ashes cricket.
“It was a massive shock to lose and we struggled to come back from that. This time round it is a completely different set of players against a completely different Australia — there are only three guys in their squad who were in that series.
“Of course you want to make sure you don’t fall into a similar trap. But I think looking too deeply into it is almost a danger in itself.
“We are a completely different team now and our cricket leading into this series has been excellent.
“I don’t think many of the guys who played then will have much baggage going into this one.”
As for preparing those rookies — Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Dawid Malan plus seamer Jake Ball — Root said: “You want to make sure they know what to expect. It will be quite hostile and potentially slightly intimidating but it shouldn’t scare you. That is part of Ashes cricket.
“That should excite you and you have a chance to do something that not many people do.
“Of course we have to be ready for everything the Gabba brings, all the media hype around the series, but, ultimately, it is about how we perform.
“The atmosphere is something very different. Whether it is the atmosphere in the ground or the noise an Ashes series brings — ex-players saying things, players saying things that a lot of the time is just a load of nonsense.”
Stokes’ absence, as he awaits possible charges for a brawl outside a Bristol nightclub, has been the hottest topic of conversation here.
Root added: “It’s very difficult to replace Stokes, I think it’s more important the guys bring the best version of themselves and not try to replicate something he would do.
“He’s obviously a big presence on the field — if you ask any captain in the world they want him in their squad.
“But for our team it would be a wrong and not natural to try and be Ben Stokes.
“It’s an opportunity for everyone to step up and do special things like Ben can do on the field, we’re all capable of doing it in our own way.”
Root has been in a relaxed mood — playing his guitar in the team room at England’s Brisbane hotel and laughing at Stuart Broad for being clattered by a stray golf ball on a putting green on Monday.
So, given some unusually damp and cloudy weather around in Brisbane, would Root dare put the Aussies into bat if he wins the toss – as Nasser Hussain infamously did here in 2002, as a previously-buoyant England team ended up sinking to a 4-1 defeat?
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“Nasser’s one bit of advice before we left was ‘don’t bowl first’,” said Root. “It would be a big call . . . imagine bowling first and winning, you’d look a genius!”
Root will probably have to come close to emulating the 766 runs scored by Alastair Cook in 2010-11 if England are to win.
But Root insisted: “This is not about personal milestones, it’s all about coming away with that little urn.”