SOUTHAMPTON: Joe Root. England Test captain. England’s record century-maker at World Cups. And now England’s golden arm.
One-day skipper Eoin Morgan hailed man-of-the-match Root after England steamrollered West Indies by eight wickets in Southampton on Friday.
Root, an occasional spin bowler, took two wickets for 27 in his five overs in the West Indies innings, breaking a partnership of 89 between Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran before removing the dangerous Jason Holder.
He then opened the batting in place of the injured Jason Roy and glided to an effortless century off 93 balls to become the first England player to register three World Cup tons.
“He’s such an important player for us,” said Morgan. “He is the glue that holds everything together and probably a side of his batting that has got better over the last two or three years that people haven’t seen a lot of, his expansive game.
“He never seems to go at less than a run a ball. You look up, he is going at more than a run a ball and it is exceptionally good to watch, so to see him come out and be in this form and continue it is brilliant.”
The 28-year-old Yorkshireman averages nearly fifty in Test cricket but an even more impressive 51.65 in his 136 one-day internationals, with 16 hundreds.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan hailed him as ‘England’s best ever consistent player’, saying he made the game look easy, whatever the format.
Root himself, whose 100 not out came after he scored 107 in the defeat to Pakistan earlier in the tournament, was typically understated, saying he still had plenty to work on.
“I feel like I’m playing all right,” said the tournament’s top-scorer, with 279 runs in four matches.
“I don’t feel I’m playing exceptionally well at the moment but I feel like I’m playing some good stuff and still loads of things that I want to keep working on, keep getting better and improving,” he said.
“But it’s not about how many runs you score, being the one that stands out in terms of individual accolades, it’s about building those substantial partnerships that win you the game, about us collectively getting the job done.”
Root has fitted well into England’s top order, packed with big hitters including Roy, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler.
“Some of the guys really enjoy having the majority of the strike and I think that works really well with me,” he explained. “I like to rotate, try to get down the other end but more than anything it’s just building those partnerships because if you get a hundred partnership, another fifty partnership, another substantial partnership somewhere then you’re generally going to go and make those big scores, which we have done on a number of occasions now.”
Root said the number of overs he got to bowl against the West Indies was a bonus.
“You obviously go into a tournament making sure you’re prepared and making sure that you have a plan of how you’re going to go about things and how you can complement the rest of the attack,” he said. “I got the opportunity today and it was nice to pick up a few wickets. I probably burgled them rather than out-skilled them.”
Attempting to outfox batsmen, Root revealed his game-plan is to be as unpredictable as possible.
“I’ve been working hard trying a few different variations to try and make it more difficult for someone just to stand there and smack me out of the park, which happens quite frequently in one-day cricket now so it was just nice to see it pay off a little bit today,” he said.
Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2019