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Cricket news - Rusty Root grateful to get back to the grind

Root trained at Trent Bridge on Monday rather than Headingley, where he plays county cricket for Yorkshire, because it is closer to his home.

Root trained at Trent Bridge on Monday rather than Headingley, where he plays county cricket for Yorkshire, because it is closer to his home.

England Test captain Joe Root was back at work on Monday as he begins preparations for the three-match series against West Indies which is set to take place next month, pending government approval. It was the first time Root had a proper bat since the aborted tour to Sri Lanka in March and he admitted to feeling slightly rusty. "Everything seems a million miles an hour," he joked. Thankfully, Root reported that things got easier as the session wore on.

Following on from England's bowlers, who have been training for two weeks, Root was one of the number of batsmen and wicket-keepers who returned to individual skill based practice yesterday ahead of what the ECB hope will be a second half of the summer full of international cricket. On Tuesday, the ECB confirmed the dates and venues for three Tests against the West Indies, beginning on July 8 at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, subject to government approval.

The matches will be played behind closed doors in bio-secure 'bubbles' to reduce, as far as possible, the risk of infection and the spread of Covid-19. Cricket West Indies have been satisfied with the measures being put in place and the tourists are set to arrive in the UK on June 9. "From what I've been made aware of, the things that have been put in place have been outstanding," Root said.

"The work that the medical team and the ECB logistically have done to make the bubble and the environment as safe as possible is incredible. For the West Indies to still come over here, they are obviously helping the game massively. Of course, safety is everything, and it wouldn't be possible if that was going to be compromised. Still, it must be extremely scary and I think the whole cricketing world will be grateful to see some cricket again."

Beginning his preparations for the Test series, Root trained at Trent Bridge on Monday rather than Headingley, where he plays county cricket for Yorkshire, because it is closer to his home. There are also a number of other players, including Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan, who are training in Leeds so spreading the players out makes sense. Root's session was supported by former England coach Peter Moores, who is now head coach at Nottinghamshire.

"I obviously spent a good couple of years working with Pete on my batting and you could argue that some of my best years batting-wise were whilst he was in charge," Root said. "It has been nice to touch base with him again. There wasn't much coaching done yesterday. It was more about getting back into it, hitting some balls, and feeling good. It would be nice to get his input on things as the week progresses, leading into the next phase."

Root said that things weren't too unusual training under the social distancing and hygiene protocols the ECB have put in place for all 55 players who have returned to practice although not being able to pick the ball up and return it to Moores was one particular difference. As preparations intensify, however, and matches take place behind closed doors, Root is aware that things will be very out of the ordinary.

"This time of year in normal circumstances is extremely exciting, the build-up to the first Test is always very special, the week as a whole is something that you look forward to, like Christmas really," he said. "It signifies what I think is a great couple of months of the year. International cricket at home, full house all the time, and brilliant atmospheres around the country.

"That's obviously going to change quite drastically. There's still a huge amount of excitement. I think a lot of that comes down to having not played for a long period of time. But, international cricket, it's hard not to get excited about that, you're always playing against the best around the world and that in itself is something that a lot of players cherish and really look forward to.

"It will be very different. It's hard to know what to expect, it's hard to know what it'll feel like when we play in empty stadiums, or what it'll be like tossing up from one balcony to the other, or however that'll look like. Media like this [using Zoom] might be quite strange after a day's play. So there's a number of things that I'm sure will be very strange and different, and take some getting used to, but I think most of the guys are just very excited to get back to playing."

Root also believes there could be an advantage to the enforced lay off for England's players, having allowed them to refresh both mentally and physically. "For me, having played almost consistently for such a long period of time and some quite high-pressured cricket in the last couple of years in particular, to get a chance to get away, I definitely feel that will benefit me moving forward into this next phase," he said.

"I've enjoyed it and benefited from it, having a bit of time to think about the game as a batter and as a captain. Take a bit of stock. The best way to take the team forward and how I will get the best out of myself for the next couple of years. Hopefully that has a positive impact on both sides of my cricket and we can start seeing a few more converted scores and England winning plenty of games."

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