October 3, 2022
England v South Africa, 3rd Test – Joe Root

Not only did he agree that they were, he was also able to pinpoint a specific moment when a format he has spent more than a decade playing, watching and analyzing made his jaw drop. . Jonny Bairstow (136) and Stokes (75 not out) as it was during their second of six Test victories this summer, New Zealand at Trent Bridge in a stand of 179 off just 121 balls to complete the fourth innings chase. demolished. 299 runs in just 50 overs.

“There was a moment at Trent Bridge when Zak Crowley and I sat with a crosswinder in that last session,” Root said as he set up the scene. “We gave a reply and within three overs, we put the book down and couldn’t take our eyes off our eyes. It was like watching the highlight reel of a T20 game, no matter the Test match. It was remarkable.

“Some things we’ve never seen before in Test cricket, happened in a very short amount of time. It’s good to know what we’re capable of. It’s almost like – I hate to compare, but there’s a little feeling to it. How was it when we started scoring really big scores in the white-ball team. It’s exciting – what’s the limit, how far can we go? You see what that team has achieved over a period of time. I know That’s the early days of Test cricket compared to the white-ball format and there are so many different elements, but it’s very exciting that I have the same kind of vibe in my mind anyway.”

When it comes to this men’s Test team it is hard not to feel that we are in unknown territory. Here is a group that is not only rekindling the English public’s love for cricket, but is also inspiring people in their own changing rooms. And perhaps it is through Root that we can gauge the authenticity of what McCullum and Stokes has cultivated this summer. The results speak for themselves, with series wins against New Zealand and South Africa making the 2021 series a one-off victory over India in a two-all category. But the vibes are something else and even anyone comfortable in their standing as Root has been revived by a funnier, more social environment.

“It’s been perfect square,” he said. “It’s been great to be a part of, it’s been a lot of fun playing the way we’ve played, and winning six out of seven is a reflection of the quality with which we’ve played. It makes winter and beyond so exciting. This team. To know that there is still more potential and the areas we can improve is the most exciting part of it. We are certainly not the finished article, but the progress we have made in such a short period of time To see him has really been a breath of fresh air. I am discussing it, to be honest, looking forward to the next series!”

You didn’t need to be a body language expert to know the burden of captaincy on Root. By the end of his five years, those baby blues had faded, his shoulders in constant slump, his worries enough to flatten him, especially during the pandemic. His only joy came in the middle, where he averaged 54 with eight centuries in his last 20 Tests as captain. One run, from the start of 2021, in which England won just four times.

During the final stages of his leadership, there was an apparent sadness for the group. There was an inadvertent separation of a branch root. He started hanging out with teammates less, even though he considered some of them to be longtime friends. Not so much because of losing their trust, but because of a combination of thinking they needed time away from them and thinking they were tired of it. It was a lack of thought and communication that just wouldn’t happen.

“No, I’ve never had more fun playing professional cricket,” Root said in a flash when asked how he’s found the season. “Honestly, it’s hard to put into words. You come in every day and you’re so excited about what’s going to happen. It’s unknown. It’s going to feel weird enough to have played 120-odd games, still There’s that feeling to be felt when you come over every day. It’s a really cool place. It keeps you very hungry and motivated. You can bounce off the energy of everyone who is in the same mindset.”

The irony here is that despite a largely productive summer, a 2-1 success over South Africa came with little input from Root. He managed only 46 runs in four innings, although the strength of his work in the first four matches ensured a strong season tally of 615 runs at an average of 68.33, as well as three Test centuries bringing him to a career total of 28. . Although naturally frustrated by the downturn, this hasn’t dampened his joy over the past month, especially with the success of others nurturing him.

“There is an element of satisfaction in winning,” he said. “But my job is to score runs.

“I couldn’t be more pleased for some of the other guys – the two boys from Sunday night (Crawley and Alex Lees) to play like this, if things were a little different we could have ended it on Sunday.

“They haven’t always managed to go ahead and score big and get the headlines, but the impact and damage they do at the top has certainly had a big impact on the rest of us to come. The way Poppy (Oli Pope) He plays all summer from now on. He has made some big contributions and you can see the confidence as he comes to bat at No. 3.

“And even last week (in the second Test at Emirates Old Trafford). I thought it was a great century, matched well with Ben. It all seemed to come together.” And we are in a good place as a team. As it includes a senior batsman, it’s nice to have you around.

Like breakout pop acts, the group’s next challenge after storming the country is to make a similar impact overseas. The first port of call is Pakistan for three Tests, which will require more thought and patience, not to mention any of those qualities are lacking with this group – within the mindset of the team, at least.

Although the South Africa series required only nine days for three results, there was a period of restraint and deliberation in each fast-forward performance. The new approach, with a full focus on his explosiveness, is primarily rooted in a calm that has been strengthened with each day’s play. Root believes now is just as good a time to take it on the road.

“We will definitely try. Look at the way we played at Old Trafford [where England scored 415 for nine steadily in 107 overs on the way to winning by an innings] And you can see there’s more to it. Most importantly, when we get a chance to force the issue and get ahead of the game, we take it. Every time we’ve had the opportunity to do this this summer, we’ve done it very well.

“At Old Trafford, you saw a different side to this team, a side that can absorb pressure, play a little differently. We are not just one-trick ponies. Test cricket always has periods You have to manage well and tactfully. Not every time this summer we’ve got it right, but we’ve done it right more times, and so we’re sitting here with six out of seven.”

Vithushan Anthrajah is Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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