Team GM’s Joe Root went in to the start of the 2013 county season on the back of a difficult three Tests in New Zealand, where he had scored 88 runs in five innings. Some might have been questioning whether he was indeed worth his place in the middle-order. Now, after hitting 501 runs for Yorkshire since his return, he has been chosen to lead the England Lions and his place at Lord’s on 16th May looks assured.
Nevertheless, Root was one of the success stories of England’s winter, making 73 and 20 not out on his Test debut; in the first innings showing solid technique and temperament to help build England’s position and then showing off some of the panache which Yorkshire fans will tell you he has in his locker. So good was the impression he made that he was drafted in to both of England’s limited overs squads.
Scores of 36, 39, 57 not out and 31 followed in the One-Day International series with Root’s form a rare bright spot in an otherwise humbling series for Alastair Cook’s men. Then came the New Zealand ODIs and still the runs continued to flow. After hitting 56, 79 not out and 49, he became the first man to score 30 or more in his first six ODI innings. In a format of the game where scoring consistently comes second to scoring quickly, this was some achievement – and even more so for one so young.
The golden run couldn’t last. In the first Test he suffered failure for the first time, making just four and then failing to score as England rallied to secure a draw. As England toiled in the remaining matches, so too did Root and he was far from alone as England only narrowly avoided a series defeat thanks to final day heroics from Matt Prior, Stuart Broad and Monty Panesar.
What makes a champion is how they react to pressure, to adversity, to the inevitable slump after a roaring start. A pre-season friendly against Lancashire saw Root manage just 11 and 23 but when the LV= County Championship got underway against fellow northern rivals Durham, Root was ready to show everybody that the New Zealand blip was just that – a blip.
Celebrating their 150th anniversary, Yorkshire didn’t make a great start. Root made a fluent 49 in the first innings but after they ceded a first innings deficit, they were set a huge target of 336.
By the end of the match, Durham might have felt that they had been bowling to Root for 150 years, such was the scale of his second innings 182 that set the White Rose county up for a four-wicket win. He faced 283 balls and hit 22 fours, leading from the front as more experienced colleagues fell by the wayside in a stunning display.
It was a triumphant return, but Root was not done yet. Derbyshire – also promoted last season – would, largely thanks to his efforts, lose by an innings despite posting 475 in their first innings. More evidence of his temperament was on display during his knock of 236 in 336 balls which was a new career best. Fittingly, perhaps, Yorkshire were in the lead by the time he departed, declaring 202 runs ahead and then dismissing Derbyshire for 163.
He has batted at number five and six for England, opens for Yorkshire yet with one Kevin Pietersen unavailable for the early part of the summer, has the time come for Root to continue his ascent and lay claim to the number four position?
Since 2012 (all matches)
England career to date
13th-17th December 2012: 4th Test v India: 73 & 20
22nd December: 2nd T20I v India: DNB
11th January 2013: 1st ODI v India: DNB
15th January 2013: 2nd ODI v India : 36
19th January 2013: 3rd ODI v India: 39
23rd January 2013: 4th ODI v India: 57*
27th January 2013: 5th ODI v India: 31
15th February 2013: 3rd T20I v New Zealand: DNB
17th February 2013: 1st ODI v New Zealand: 56
20th February 2013: 2nd ODI v New Zealand: 79*
23rd February 2013: 3rd ODI v New Zealand: 28*
6th-10th March 2013: 1st Test v New Zealand: 0 & 4
14th-18th March 2013: 2nd Test v New Zealand: 10 & DNB
22nd-26th March 2013: 3rd Test v New Zealand: 45 & 29