SPORT / MISCELLANY
Joe Root puts captaincy cares behind him as he joins ‘10,000 club’
Published: Jun 09, 2022 07:48 PM
Joe Root underlined the talent that had long seemed obvious from early in his career when he became just the second England batsman to score 10,000 Test runs during a match-winning hundred against New Zealand at Lord's last weekend.

The 31-year-old Yorkshireman's typically composed 115 not out took England, who had been faltering at 69 for four, to a target of 277 and a five-wicket victory over the World Test champions with more than a day to spare.

Root radiated serenity at the crease, keeping the scoreboard ticking over against a quality attack without resorting to extravagant strokes during a 170-ball innings that spanned nearly five and a half hours.

No wonder Ben Stokes, in his first match since succeeding Root as England captain said afterward of his close friend, "'Mr Dependable,' Joe Root, stood up. Scoring a hundred and 10,000 runs - what a player and what a man."

Root, an orthodox "touch" batsman rather than a power hitter, made his mark playing for the same Sheffield Collegiate club as another former England captain in Michael Vaughan.

By the time Root had turned 23 he was already being spoken of as a future England skipper, having marked his Test debut with a patient innings of 73 from 229 balls against India in Nagpur in 2012.

Root's rise continued the following year with a first Test hundred, against New Zealand at his Headingley home ground, before a maiden Ashes century at Lord's.

There was a dip, however, in Australia - where Root has still to score a Test century - as he lost form along with several teammates as England were whitewashed during the 2013-14 Ashes.

Root, dropped for the fifth Test in Sydney, responded in style back on home soil with a double hundred against Sri Lanka at Lord's followed by two centuries against India.

Given England play so much more Test cricket than most of their rivals, a slump was, perhaps, inevitable and it was not long before concerns were being expressed about Root's "conversion rate." 

Between his hundred in Johannesburg in early 2016 on a victorious tour and a century in Rajkot as England slumped to a 4-0 defeat in India, he passed 50 six times but only turned one of those innings into a hundred, albeit a career-best 254 against Pakistan at Old Trafford.

Root, however, was now among the modern game's "Big Four" batsmen together with Australia's Steve Smith, India's Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson, the current captain of New Zealand.

He succeeded Alastair Cook - the only other England batsman to have scored 10,000 Test runs - as captain in 2017.

He went on to lead England in more Tests (64) and achieve more wins (27) than any previous skipper but never looked comfortable as a tactician in the field.

It was also Root's misfortune to find himself in charge of an increasingly weak side, with his tenure as skipper ending in a run of just one win from 17 matches before he stepped down in April after a series loss in the Caribbean that followed a 4-0 Ashes hammering in Australia.

Even so, his own standards did not slip, with a remarkable 2021, in which he scored 1,708 runs at an average of 61, taking Root from seventh to second in the list of all-time England Test run-scorers.

Root's current Test batting average is a fraction under 50, the mark of an all-time great, with his tally of 26 hundreds at this level exceeded for England only by the retired Cook's 33.

And Sunday's innings suggest there are plenty more runs to come.