JOE ROOT turned to a childhood pal to help him start scoring mountains of runs again.
England’s Test captain has been working with Josh Varley, coach of Sheffield Collegiate CC and a man he has known since he was 12.
Although still England’s top batsman, Root’s output has dwindled recently and he averages 40 as captain compared to 52 when not in charge.
His average in five Ashes Tests last summer was a disappointing 32.5.
Root will return to his favourite No4 position for the eight Tests this winter — two in New Zealand, four in South Africa and two in Sri Lanka.
He said: “I want to set a marker early by going to New Zealand and making big scores.
“I’ve been trying to get better rhythm back into my batting without affecting my balance. Feeling rhythmical is a big part of how I bat well.
“Four years ago was the last time I had a break as long as this and that was because of a broken thumb.
“You have to take these pockets of time to improve yourself. I’ve had a few sessions with Josh.
“He’s actually younger than me but we played and threw balls to each other at Collegiate’s ground Abbeydale Park from the age of 12, for what seemed like all day.
“I’ve also been with Josh to Denstone College where Simon Guy is head of cricket.
“He used to play for Yorkshire and was a bit of a mentor when I started out. He knows my game like the back of his hand.
“I’ve done some brilliant work with Graham Thorpe and Mark Ramprakash when he was involved with England. But now and again it’s nice to go to other people.”
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So, while England’s white ball players landed in New Zealand yesterday for five T20 matches, Root has been working hard before flying with the Test squad on November 4.
Varley said: “We worked on the basics, really, and it was great to see him so relaxed. He looked in very good touch.
“I’ve grown up with Joe and his brother Billy. Joe always trained hard and loved batting.”