Former England captain Joe Root gave his successor Ben Stokes a perfect start to his reign at Lord’s, leading England to victory with a match-winning century in the first Test against New Zealand on Sunday.
Root stepped down as captain in April after five years in charge of a record 64 matches but remained the team’s most reliable performer, setting a five-wicket win from 115 not out.
In a decisive partnership with Ben Fox, who scored an unbeaten 32 off 120 runs, Root defended the home side in a hard-fought 277-run stand with a century in his first fourth innings.
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Thus Root is only the second Englishman to reach 10,000 Test runs – following in the footsteps of his own predecessor, Alastair Cook, as captain. The symmetry of their achievements does not end there, both men are exactly 31 years and 157 days old when they crossed the threshold.
It was Root’s 26th century, similar to that of West Indian great Sir Garfield Sobers, but he would be more than satisfied to see its importance to the team.
England were marginal favorites as they resumed at 216 for five, still needed 61 runs and had five wickets in hand, but the task still seemed daunting.
With thick, gray clouds overhead and floodlights flashing from the first ball, the situation was not ideal for batting. A fragile tail, featuring at least three natural number 11, also creates liability on the overnight pairing of Root and Focus.
But a game that lay on the bed in an unusually neat fashion, subject to one twist after another along the way.
Root was the key man and he was reliably measured as he scored an unbeaten 77 in an impeccable fashion. However, Fox deserves huge credit for the way he holds his last.
The Surrey wicketkeeper expanded his collection as he successfully stopped the Kiwi attack on the third evening, soaking 48 balls for his nine runs.
With a boundary at a premium, he assisted himself with two runs in three deliveries from dangerous Kyle Jamieson, punching him in the back foot towards the thirdman before crunching on-drive. Later, as the target went below 30, he jumped on his heels and pulled Tim Southee into four more fielders.
Route drilled Jamieson to the ground in the 90’s and then there was a piece of luck when an underage man avoided his stumps and Tom Blandell’s dive to the ropes.
New Zealand were hoping to hang out and needed a second new ball to do some magic for them. However, they could not stop the score of England. Root started the 77th over with 98 runs in the innings and 9,998 runs of his career and brought a proud double by pinging Saudi at mid-wicket.
He happily punches in the air and points to the pavilion as the crowd applauds them, the winning line now just a few shots away. Root finished the job with a glimmer of glory, wrapping everything up with a joyful swing through mid-wickets with three boundaries in one over by Southee.
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