Joe Root, once the apprentice to the great Sir Alastair Cook, surpassed the former opener on the fourth day at Trent Bridge to become the England batsman with the most centuries against India in international cricket. Root now has nine, followed by Cook on eight and Kevin Pietersen on seven. All three have played against similar and high-class India sides, but considering the resurgent force that Root in particular has faced in recent years, his achievement becomes hugely significant.
His 109 off 172 balls in this first Test against India has been described as one of his best ever, and eclipses any of the previous eight against the same opposition simply due to the difficulty and context of the task. Partnering at first the obdurate Dom Sibley, Root had to do all of the legwork in terms of run-scoring, putting on 77 of the 89 that the pair managed. Sibley’s vigil was notable, but it was remarkable how much more natural Root looked at the crease.
The first 96 runs came in fluid, eye-catching fashion, seemingly reversing a previous strategy of digging in when the bowling is tight. Root put away each and every bad ball, and many of the good, as he drove his way towards another largely isolated masterclass. It is, with respect, the relative shortcomings of his colleagues that makes this ton particularly special. The next highest score to Root’s 109 and 64 across both innings was Sam Curran’s 32, and however worrying the lack of support, it only put the mastery of Root into sharper focus.
The quality of an attack involving Siraj, Bumrah, Shami and Thakur as well as the lively Jadeja must also be noted, and the pressure that such a unit exacts when 95 runs ahead after an innings cannot be exaggerated. Root wethered the storm as if facing a club attack at times. He encountered difficulty, of all places, at around the 97-run mark, when perhaps a few nerves and some wonderful bowling led to false shots and miscues. Emerging from such a period and delightfully on-driving for four to bring up three figures, Root only added another dimension of steely excellence to this, one of the best hundreds for and against any team that you will see.