Sam Robson batting for England vs India at Trent Bridge in 2014

“Joe Root’s greatest strength is that he is aggressive and always looking to get on top yet has an excellent technique which allows him to stay in”

 Growing up in Australia but moving to England at the age of 18, Sam Robson opens the batting for Middlesex in English County Cricket and in 2014 played 7 tests for England. Sam has also played grade cricket in Sydney for Eastern Suburbs CC on and off over the years and so has an insight into both the Australian and English system and teams. He is one of my close mates and studies the game closely so we’re very lucky to have Sam giving us his thoughts throughout the series. 

After some good seasons for Middlesex recently you can’t have been too far off selection for England again yourself?

I played for England A in June of this year against South Africa a week before the 1st Test at Lords and made 47 against Rabada, Morkel etc. so I suppose then and on a couple other occasions I’ve felt like I was perhaps reasonably close. However, ultimately I haven’t gone on and made enough massive scores at the right times to really force the issue. Hopefully, if I can keep improving and the stars align I may get another chance.

After England lost 5 -0 last time they visited Australia, most pundits are tipping Australia to win again. How do you think this series will play out and what do you think England will have to do well if they are to have some success?

Virtually every team now is very difficult to beat at home in Tests, even sides like Bangladesh for example so it’s natural for Australia to be favourites. Australia’s fast bowlers are young and very fast so facing them on bouncy wickets which some of England’s guys won’t have seen much of will be tough work. However, if they can hang in there, hit the loose ones and get the quicks into their second and third spell without too much damage, players like Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow will be able to score quickly against an old ball and tiring bowlers if they get the chance. England’s middle and lower-order are all dangerous, counter-attacking sort of players, especially if Ben Stokes turns up later in the series. This is one of their big strengths. Apart from about 4 or 5 of Australia’s players who are wold-class, the rest are either starting out or have been in and out of the team over the past 12 months so if England can keep Australia’s big players quiet i think England can do well.

Who do you see as being key men in each team and what do you see as the key battles throughout the series?

The key men I would say are the obvious guys like Smith, Starc, Anderson, Broad etc. Joe Root scored probably the best hundred of his career 2 years ago against South Africa on a fast and up and down wicket at the wanderers in Johannesburg. England went on to win that series which was a massive effort so if he can play a couple similar innings to that it will be a major help. How some of the inexperienced players in each side also go might actually be more interesting as that might have a big impact on the series.

You nearly had three Middlesex CCC teammates in the England squad – it’s a real shame that Toby Roland-Jones and Steven Finn were injured and won’t play a part in the series. That just leaves Dawid Malan (an ex-teammate of mine also), how do you think he’ll cope on the Australian wickets and with the Aussie crowd giving him a bit?  

He’s an attacking player and plays all the shots, especially driving and forcing through the offside so hopefully he can get off to a good start, get some confidence and then have good series!

Robbo celebrating a hundred for Middlesex CCC

You played a lot of your junior cricket with Steve Smith, did you ever think he’d become as good as he is now? What do you think it is about Steve that makes him so successful?

I played a fair bit with Steve as a teenager and he was always very good although I don’t think anyone would have thought he would become this good. He’s obviously pretty unorthodox but has always been a pretty natural player with great hand-eye co-ordination and timing. He was always a great catcher and fieldsman to go with this.

Having played the 7 tests with Root, Anderson, Broad etc what is it about them that separates them from an average first-class cricketer?

With all the wickets that Broad and Anderson have taken they are clearly both outstanding bowlers. Anderson’s skills especially swinging the ball around both ways to go with great accuracy stood out and his fitness and strength as often he would still be bowling full pelt and at his best even late in test matches when the match was on the line. With Root, I think his greatest strength is that he is very aggressive and always looking to get on top yet still has an excellent technique which allows him to stay in and get though tough periods, something that is especially crucial in England , where the ball swings and seams far more than anywhere else in the world. 

You’re currently back in Sydney where your parents live, where are you at with your own cricket at the moment? 

I’ve had bad tendonitis the last couple months in my left elbow which is my top hand for batting so at the moment I am just resting that and hopefully will play grade cricket for Easts in Sydney later in the Aussie summer before going to back to England in March to prepare for the next county season.

About the writer: Sam Robson is a 28 year old opening batsman for Middlesex County Cricket Club. He has played 128 First-class matches and has an average just under 40. After a number of dominant seasons in county cricket, Sam was selected to open the batting with Alistair Cook for the England Test team for their home series in 2014. He played two Tests against Sri Lanka and 5 Tests against India and scored 127 in his second Test match. In the Australian summer last year, Sam dominated grade cricket in Sydney where he scored 792 runs at an average of 88. Click here to view Sam’s stats.


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