Joe Root has some tough weeks ahead at the end of the tour but is imploring his England teammates to make the most of a "great opportunity" in the upcoming two Tests. Image: cricket.com.au

Joe Root has tough questions coming for him in a few weeks time but right now he is hoping his England team embrace the opportunity in the next two test matches despite the Ashes being lost

The New Year may not have provided the clean slate England Test captain Joe Root thought it would for his struggling side, but he is imploring his England side to embrace the opportunity over the next two weeks, starting at the SCG on Wednesday.

Having already lost the Ashes ahead of the New Years Test in Sydney, Root dismissed suggestions of a lack of motivation developing within the England camp.

With the final two Tests in Sydney and Hobart being dead-rubbers, when asked on Monday how it would impact England’s preparation, Root implored his teammates to “see [the two Tests] as an opportunity, don’t see [them] as a heavy burden”.

The England captain noted that key coaching personnel being struck down with COVID, including head coach Chris Silverwood, fast bowling coach Jon Lewis, Spin bowling coach Jeetan Patel, and strength and conditioning specialist Darren Veness, giving the group the opportunity to “stand up in a bit of adversity” and “walk away from [the] trip with something”.

“Obviously with the amount of coaches that we have missing, it’s obviously made things slightly disjointed and challenging but it’s an opportunity for us as a group to come tight together, to work together.” Root said.

History suggests that Root’s side is up against it however if they are looking to claim some pride in the back end of the tour.

Outside of England’s 2010/11 boilover tour where it won 3-1, England has won a solitary Test in Australia since the start of the 21st century.

Tours of 4-1 (2002/03), 5-0 (2006/07), 5-0 (2013/14) and 4-0 (2017/18) make for grim reading and suggests that England will need more than just opportunity to motivate them at the end of this series.

As questioning turned to his captaincy, Root said, “I’ll look at my future beyond this tour at the end of it”, adding that he hoped the discussions had not provided a distraction to his teammates as they prepared for the Pink Test.

“I don’t think that’s a distraction that should be around the group or [something] I should be wasting energy on right now, I need to make sure I throw everything I can at these two games,” he said.

“I think I owe that to this team and to the players, that’ll give us the best chance of getting the results that we desire.”

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Coming off a career-best year from a personal perspective, Root would be forgiven for thinking critics may have given him a grace period before deciding on his future as the leader of the side.

As he would also understand, however, an unsuccessful Ashes tour to Australia provides no such leniency, and with his side labelled one of the weakest to have graced Australian shores it appears Root’s days as captain may be numbered.

Looking to change his tune following his criticism of England’s bowlers after the Adelaide day-night Test, Root noted it was the batsmen who should be held responsible for making a total “for [their] bowlers to work with”.

Root himself has provided more-than-respectable scoring in the series, with the majority of the batting criticism being focussed on those around him.

Only Root and Dawid Malan hold an average greater than 30 runs for the tourists in this series and help does not appear to be close by.

While the pitches have not favoured the batting of either side, Root pushed for his batsmen to “sustain pressure” when at the crease and in doing so “handle it better for longer [periods of time]”.

“Obviously we’ve not performed anywhere near the level we expect ourselves to…[but] we [are looking to] prove we are learning from the experiences we’ve faced so far on this trip [in the final two tests].”

“Whoever gets the opportunity to play in this game has that chance to go out there and put in those individual scores, those partnerships which set a game up, we’ve been shown firsthand by Australia how to go and do that in these conditions.”

From challenging pitches to quarantines to COVID disruptions and injuries to key personnel, England has been entitled to its fair share of excuses on this tour, yet Root believes the best attitude for his side to take into the rest of the series is to “look after today”.

Further disruptions look to wreak havoc on the fourth Test at the SCG in the form of rain, though these are likely to be welcomed by a side looking to avoid a dreaded Ashes whitewash.

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