Joe Root proved many sound judges right yesterday, and became the new pride of Sheffield too, with a composed half-century on Test debut for
England. The 21-year-old, who grew up watching Ashes-winning captain Michael Vaughan playing in the same Sheffield Collegiate club side as his own dad, conquered the inevitable nerves in Nagpur and appeared in control throughout his innings of 73.
Root needed to dig in, on a conspicuously low and slow pitch, to joint top-score alongside Kevin Pietersen in England’s 330 all out as they seek to close out a famous series victory. After James Anderson then took three for 24 as India stumbled to 87 for four by stumps on Day Two of this final Test, Root has obvious prospects of starting his international career at the very top as part of the first England team to win a series here since long before he was born.
England’s new number six began his maiden innings yesterday, but continued past his first 50 this morning as he and Matt Prior (57) took their stand into three figures. There were no friends and family in attendance, but many made it clear with Twitter messages — and photos posted from his youngest years as an early England hopeful — that they were willing Root on throughout.
He has long been the subject of rave reviews from Performance Programme coach and former England batsman Graham Thorpe too, but once here only he could justify the hype. “It would be wrong to say there’s no nerves when you’re waiting to bat in Test cricket for the first time,” said Root. “But I’ve got a great team around me, who are very encouraging and very helpful. Then once I got in the middle, I was quite relaxed.
“I’m obviously delighted to get the opportunity, and then to score a few runs is a really good feeling.” He had no doubts at any point that much of South Yorkshire, including his nearest and dearest, were batting every ball with him via television coverage. “They’re not out here; they’re sat at home watching,” he said.
“It just shows that I’ve been dreaming about this opportunity for a very long time, and I’m very proud I’ve finally got it.” Root’s first cap came as a surprise to many, including him, when he was picked here in place of Samit Patel — who had batted at number six in the first three Tests. Conditions meant there would be no quick path to success once out in the middle either.
The signs are Root might have helped put England in control. “We’re in a pretty good position now. So I hope we can kick on tomorrow (Saturday) and really do some damage in the morning,” he said. “Jimmy’s bowled fantastically well, as he has throughout the series, and it’s going to be a big period for us tomorrow morning,” he added.