Silverwood and Root; destined to work.
All stats and numbers where provided by @JMMcaghrey on Twitter go follow him; he truly is a top guy and also one of the best cricket twitter accounts out there.
When Trevor Bayliss bowed out of international cricket at the Oval in 2019 following a drawn Ashes series England were world champions and he had done his job. Bayliss and Morgan were the ultimate dream team; they were English crickets Michelle and Barack. Bayliss was laid back and completely believed in Morgan's philosophy of if in doubt hit your way out and together they delivered the single greatest moment in the history of English cricket… Adil Rashid's beauty to bowl Kohli at Headingley. But the relationship between Bayliss and Root was never the same.
Root got the England captaincy as his first ever real captaincy gig and well it showed. The first 2 years weren’t exactly great and his relationship with Bayliss was indicative of this. In Morgan Bayliss had one of the most self assured tactically astute men in world cricket, in Root he had someone who needed help and assurance, who needed that arm around his shoulder and someone to be right by his side. Well Bayliss just simply wasn’t that and he treated Root much the same as he treated Morgan and given their total difference in character it never clicked. Yet it must be said that of course I don’t know the intricacies of the relationship between Root and Bayliss and well all signs point towards it being a good one when Root wasn’t skipper as in the ODI side Root was a bubbly character freed up and he delivered being England's most consistent ODI batsmen throughout the 5 year period averaging 53 with 13 hundreds.
Root under Bayliss never looked sure of how his side should play test cricket. The plan A was mighty effective when it came off. England batted quick and scored fast and then they attacked with the ball but when this didn’t work well… The perfect encapsulation of Bayliss’ England was the winter of 2018. In Sri Lanka England were hyper aggressive posting big runs fast and getting the best out of poor conditions. They were electric to watch and no one could stop them; Plan A was working a charm. Winter rolled on and England moved onto the West Indies in which conditions weren’t poor in fact they were rather good and well Plan A gifted a part timer an 8 for. Multiple times throughout Bayliss’ tenure England were embarrassed and bowled out in a session or just over. Test cricket was never Bayliss’ forte and it showed in the results (more on that later).
As mentioned before Bayliss bowed out after an admittedly embarrassing Ashes series for England, which was full of poor form for the skipper himself and a whole heap of collapses often rescued by one of Buttler or Stokes. England needed a new look and this started with the head coach. Gary Kirsten was interviewed and many saw him as the ideal man to not only sustain England's white ball success (he has won a world cup afterall) but also as someone who could take England's test match team to unseen heights. For all the talk of the South African though it was instead Chris Silverwood (England bowling coach at the time) who had previously coached Essex to a championship title who was given the job. Since his appointment Root and Silverwood have got on like a house on fire (I never quite got that analogy).
Straight away the early talk was good. Silverwood and Root were close, planning together and constantly in conversation with each other and they both had a clear idea and a plan. Restore test cricket to where it should be in the English psyche and they had a good method to do this. They wanted to bat long, make the ‘daddy hundreds’; in essence Root and ‘Spoons’ wanted to play test cricket. Selection changed with many senior members dropping out of the side and a shuffle in the order most significantly Silverwood was very open in his desire for Joe Root to bat 4. All the talk was about “Big first innings runs” and “Keeping it tight in the bowling”. Well they have delivered on this. When measuring the top 7 batsmen over the entire Bayliss period (60 test matches) the conversion rate of hundreds into 50s was a low 21.62% whilst in the first 18 games under Silverwood it has been a respectable 26.09%. But this isn’t the improvement the improvement comes in the daddy hundreds. Under Bayliss England struggled to really bat sides out of the game, think Perth 2017 when England made a good total but the 2 hundreds made were not big enough on a good batting track and Steve Smith ultimately showed England what they needed to do. Under Bayliss England's conversion rate from 100-150 was a mere 22.5% and in between January 2018 and November 2019 England didn’t post a single score of 150 or above. But under Silverwood.. Well it’s 58%. Of course this is from a small sample size but England are learning to go big, they are only 2 150+ scores away from equalling the total number made under Bayliss in his 60 matches (It must be said that of course England came close a number of times e.g. Keaton Jennings hitting 146* in Sri Lanka, but then the same can be said for England under Silverwood with them twice declaring when a batsmen was in the 130s).
One of the main contributors to this has been Joe Root, Root has posted 4 of the 7 150+ scores under Silverwood including 3 doubles. The skipper had a lean 2020 but he is back now and we all know it. England are looking to bat big under Silverwood and Root has been given the freedom to masterfully construct an innings. As I said in my post Golden Boy back to his best “When Root was out of nick he seemed desperate to score, desperate to show that he is better than the attack, better than a good ball.” Now I won’t say this was all down to Bayliss but Bayliss and his natural attacking and “positive” rhetoric certainly played apart. Root wanted to lead from the front and this led to some ultimately silly dismissals and he became frenetic and unsettled at the crease when he ran into a good spell of bowling and was struggling to score. Under Silverwood it has taken time but Root has realised he is able to just bat for as long as he needs, no longer does he need to go through the gears instead he is merely motoring along at 30mph steadily accumulating. This is also down to the fact that England can now bowl tight and keep sides out of games with the ball which before they just simply weren’t doing. England's economy for their first 6 bowlers was 3.15 under Bayliss and is 2.85 under Silverwood. England are pushing the numbers that matter in the right direction and it’s paying off. Silverwood has also kept things simple in terms of tactics. England just bowl tight outside off for as long as they can and they attempt to out-patience their opponent. This makes Root's job far easier with him not only having the bowlers to do it but also the field placements to execute such a plan are far easier. Not only this but Root also seems far more tactically astute in terms of rotation of bowlers and his overall plans; whilst Roots tactical development is largely down to just captaining more I would also add that the aurora of owning his fields and tactics has grown significantly since Silverwood has become coach. Furthermore Root and Silverwood seem to be unanimous on matters of selection and who should play and who gets their backing i.e. Dom Sibley who both are big fans of and it has shown with him not missing a test match for England since his debut. Both believe in their method and they’ve had significant success with it as well racking up dominant series victories against South Africa, the West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka where they have followed England’s plan A (big first innings runs and bowl tight) whilst remaining flexible in their methodology and realising when to attack and when to step back a key element which was missing from the Bayliss era.
On the flip side individual excellence that maybe wasn’t there for the Bayliss era has also played a large part in England's recent success. A resurgent Stuart Broad has played a huge factor in England's success under Silverwood and is the 2nd highest wicket taker in the world test championship with 69 wickets coming @20.08 and has been England's most consistent bowler through Silverwoods reign. But the collective batting unit has also been a huge success with every one of the top 7 posting at least 1 hundred under Silverwood and most of the time carrying on. So whilst individual excellence has played apart it hasn’t just been 1 individual rather each one has delivered at certain times and this is what makes a good team a great one.
Coincidentally Joe Root has just reached his 50th test match as skipper and with 27 test match wins he has tied Michael Vaughan with the most test wins for an England skipper. 9 of these 27 wins have come under Silverwood. So you might be thinking, surely having 16 test match wins is a good return for Root under Bayliss? Well no because as mentioned before there was no real identity. When you analyse the series that Bayliss and Root won together there was only one which can be said to be against a formidable opposition and have England win convincingly and that is against South Africa in 2017, the skipper's first series in charge. Apart from that England scraped a 4-1 against India (how about that for a juxtaposition), got blown away by Australia twice and New Zealand twice. Root under Bayliss was inconsistent and infuriating at times, Root under Silverwood is a calm and collected individual and his record under each coach is again a reflection of this. Under Bayliss Root averaged 40.81 with only 5 hundreds which is far too low for a player of his calibre. Under Silverwood Root currently averages 56 with 4 hundreds all of which have been above 150; Root is a new man under Silverwood and he clearly believes in the system that the two of them have implemented.
Now as I have already said 2020 was a lean year for Root but there was a noticeable difference in his attitude on the field. So many times throughout Root's years as captain we have heard the expressions ‘this is now Roots team’ and ‘this is the side he(Root) wants’ well this time it is actually true. Many of the players in this side are clearly ones Root trusts and believes in. One of the standout moments of his time in the role has been the way he celebrated Dom Bess’ 5 for against South Africa in the 3rd test. It was a look of pure joy and elation for the young man. Many of the members of this side are ones that Root clearly wants in his test match team. It was Root who pushed for the (admittedly premature) inclusion of Ollie Pope in 2018, when they’re on the field together Root and Jack Leach are often found conversing and discussing tactics and plans and they clearly have a bond, Root values Jos Buttler not just as a cricketer but as a senior leadership figure and most importantly Root trusts his batsmen. Silverwood has teamed up with Root and built Roots team whereas before it had a sense that for every Root player there was a Bayliss one too. Whether or not Root wanted Jason Roy in his test match side we shall never know but Bayliss certainly did. The inverse can be said of Gary Ballance who earned a recall in 2017 in Roots first match in charge and is a good friend of the England skipper. But this is Roots side, a team he has constructed to get the best out of himself, a team that is full of players who play his way. This team is the making of something special.
After a demoralising tour for India the legacies of both men will be decided this summer and winter when India tour England and of course England head down under for the Ashes. So much focus has been put on that Ashes series arguably too much. But nevertheless this test match side has all the right methods to go and compete and the amount of exciting young talent coming through is reason enough for England fans to believe that they can compete with the Aussies. For Root this series is the biggest he will have faced. Root has never been a part of a winning side in Australia nor does he have a test hundred there but under Silverwood I do have confidence he can deliver and break those two records. This year is make or break for these two men but I have no doubt in my mind that these two are the perfect fit for each other.