An inspired team selection. A match-defining innings.
A convincing and historic victory over South Africa with a day to spare.
Joe Root is making the England test captaincy look easy.
Root, the golden boy of English cricket, could not have wished for a better start to his tenure as the new skipper after seeing his team beat the Proteas by 211 runs in the first test at Lord’s on Sunday.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said the 26-year-old Root, “but what was really pleasing was everything I asked of the lads they were very open to.”
Root’s decision to play two spinners – Liam Dawson and Moeen Ali – was contentious given the test was played on a track more usually suited to seamers. It paid off handsomely, with the pair combining for 14 wickets.
Root, who won his first test toss, led by example, too. His 190 in the first innings helped England recover from a poor start to a position of great strength, leaving South Africa to play catch-up in the final three days of the test.
He was busy, supportive and proactive in the field, taking advice from senior players like former captain Alastair Cook and James Anderson and getting his bowling changes just about right, especially when it came to the use of the spinners.
Moeen ripped through South Africa’s lower order on a balmy Sunday afternoon, as the Proteas were dismissed for 119 and lost to England in a test match at Lord’s for the first time since 1960.
“It’s a great start, and the whole team were fabulous throughout,” Root said. “Everything that was thrown at them and asked of them, they responded extremely well.”
So what had Root said, exactly?
“All I said was I want us to try to be quite proactive, stay ahead of the game when those opportunities come, take responsibility if you’re in a position to do so. I think everyone at certain points did that,” he said.
“I think it’s really important we continue to do that if we’re going to take this side forward.”
Root played the whole test with a cold. His voice was still slightly croaky as he spoke after victory was sealed with around an hour left of Day 4.
“I obviously wasn’t very well, but nothing was going to stop me trying to enjoy this week . and to come out of it with a win has been an amazing feeling,” he said.
“I’ll take it if it means winning and feeling crook for a few days.”