Former England skipper Nasser Hussain has termed Joe Root’s fine unbeaten century in the opening Test against New Zealand at Lord’s as one of his greatest innings, and added that the cricketer’s “rhythm and tempo was as good as it’s ever been”.
Root, who stepped down as England captain following the series loss against the West Indies, guided the hosts to a five-wicket win against the Kane Williamson-led Black Caps on Sunday to break the long sequence of defeats and bring cheers back to the home crowd.
Hussain said Root had been through a lot of ups and downs in the last two years, trying to keep the struggling side afloat in tough times, and that’s why his unbeaten 115 was “his greatest innings”.
“After everything Joe Root has been through, trying to steer a struggling side through the difficulties of Covid and the pandemic, that was one of his,” Hussain said in his column for the Daily Mail.
“But what I think will mean as much to him as scoring a match-winning hundred at Lord’s against a strong New Zealand side will be the reception he got from the crowd, both when he walked out to bat on the first day and when he walked back into the pavilion on the fourth morning with a brilliant 115 not out to his name.”
Hussain added that for a captain to step down after a string of losses and still get such a great response from the public was indeed heartening.
“When you reach the end of your reign as captain and results are not going your way, it’s easy to wonder what the public are thinking. But the response Root got at Lord’s would have ended any concerns he might have had. Put simply, he felt the love of the English cricketing public and that will mean the world to him.”
“He spoke afterwards about how the captaincy had taken its toll on him, how towards the end he couldn’t switch off. To have carried on scoring the runs he did — 1,708 in Test cricket in 2021 alone and now three more hundreds in 2022 — would have been exceptional under normal circumstances. To do it under the shadow of Covid, and with so little help from his team-mates, was staggering,” opined Hussain.
Hussain said that before the start of the Test, new skipper Ben Stokes would have wished for two things — Root century and a win for England — and both came true.
“Ben Stokes would have had two major wishes ahead of this Test — an England win and a hundred for Root. He got both and a big part of that was because of intelligent reading of the situation on Saturday afternoon.
“Root has always had a lovely tempo about the way he bats and his rhythm in this innings was as good as it has ever been. But what marked it out as even more special was the way he and Stokes seized the moment to take the attack to the New Zealanders in the fourth-innings run chase,” added Hussain.