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'Fantastic Talent' Mr Reliable comes to England's rescue once again

June 17, 2023 10:39 IST
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IMAGE: Joe Root celebrates his ton at the Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham on Friday. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Reuters

It seems slow and steady can still deliver in Test cricket for England as, with all eyes on other free-scoring batters in the Ashes series opener on Friday, a more traditional Joe Root came to his side's rescue once more.

Questions were raised over whether a thrill-seeking England that had previously amassed 11 wins in 13 tests under coach Brendon McCullum could continue with their attack-minded approach in an Ashes series against Australia.

Zak Crawley's four off the very first ball was a signal of intent, with the runs continuing to flow. Even Australia, it seemed for much of the morning session at Edgbaston, could not tame "Bazball".

However, the wickets also tumbled, with England in trouble on 175-6, as attacking players scored, and departed, quickly.

This is Test cricket after all, and sometimes a cool head is still needed. Step forward someone familiar with standing firm when it matters, at all levels of the game.

Root picked off the singles and steadied the ship, something he has become an expert in his career, with a first century in eight years against Australia and a 30th in international Test cricket digging England out of hole, again, in their hour if need.

"It's really special," fellow Yorkshireman Jonny Bairstow who put on 121 runs with Root for the sixth wicket, said.

"For someone that's known him for such a long time, been through thick and thin with him and experienced lots of different things together, it is an absolute pleasure to be out there at the other end with him.


"He's a fantastic talent. He's probably got another 10 years in the game. He will probably get up to 25,000 runs or something stupid. He loves batting, being out there for long period, loves representing his country. You see the smile on his face. You see the cheeky little grin that he has. That is what it means to him."

IMAGE: Jonny Bairstow lauds teammate Joe Root for his fantastic knock on Day 1. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Reuters

If keeping his cool as others lost theirs was the order of the day early on, and even though other England players are more revered for their aggression, Root showed he has the full repertoire of shots late in his innings too, in-keeping with the "Bazball" theme.

Four of England's five sixes came off Root's bat, from smashes down the ground to reverse scoops over his head.

Stokes's early declaration with England on 393-8 curtailed Root just as he was getting going, but an unbeaten 118 was more than sufficient for an afternoon's work.

In the early stages of Root's innings, a first Ashes series win in eight years looked a forlorn prospect for England, but happy to operate out of the limelight again, Root was again his team's Mr Reliable, when it mattered most.

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