Lord's Day One: Root's Reign Up and Running
by Owen Riley

Scorecard:England v South Africa
Player:JE Root
Event:South Africa in England 2017

DateLine: 6th July 2017


The sun is hitting all corners of Lord’s, as is Joe Root. If there’s a gap, nook or cranny in the South Africa field, England’s Test captain is piercing it.


There were murmurs of England’s new Test captain looking nervous at the start of the day, rightly so, with the weight of the world on his shoulders. By 6pm Root looked like he could pick the world up and put it in his pocket.


There has been much said of the Yorkshireman’s inability to convert half-centuries into three figures. Of his last twelve fifties, Root had only managed to convert three into hundreds. It was by no means chanceless, being dropped on five and twelve, but today he converted this one into a daddy, and he will resume tomorrow unbeaten on 184.


For a while it looked as though this, brave, bold, old, New England - or whatever pre-fix we’re using these days - were really just a team with the same old traits dressed in a new sweater, three down for not very many.


But this is a team led by Root and Ben Stokes now, alarmingly-talented scrappers.


The pair set about hauling England back onto the rails, Stokes producing a glorious straight drive off Morkel, then greeting Keshav Maharaj by depositing him into the pavilion. Joe Root steps forward, flicks the spinner through midwicket for four. Captain and vice are out there shaping England in their own style. it’s reminiscent of New Zealand on this turf in 2015.


By the time Stokes was dismissed by Kagiso Rabada, the partnership had reached 114, their second-highest since putting on 161 in that Lord’s fixture two years ago.


But the festival atmosphere did not stop there. One moment the Lord’s crowd are grumbling at sluggish over rates - “Dean Elgar is a slow captain” says Bumble on Test Match Special - the next they are purring as Moeen Ali produces a couple of cover drives you’d like to take home to meet your parents. Everything he does looks as though it has been carefully peeled from a textbook, distilled into its purist form, then dressed in silk.


The sun continued to shine on Root when Maharaj followed Morne Morkel in taking a wicket off a no-ball. Destiny, meant to be, whatever, or just a criminal overstepping of an international spinner.


When the umpires removed the bails at the close, Joe Root was unbeaten on 184, the highest score by an Englishman making his Test captaincy debut, surpassing Alastair Cook’s 173 against Bangladesh in 2010.


Long after the star that warms this planet sets this evening, the Lord’s faithful will have a memory to bottle up stick on the mantle piece.


Root’s reign is up and running.


(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2017 The Cricketer)


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