LONDON: Former captain Joe Root gave his successor Ben Stokes the perfect start to his reign at Lord’s, carrying England to victory with a match-winning century to seal the first test against New Zealand on Sunday.
Root walked away as skipper in April after five years and a record 64 games in charge but remains the team’s most reliable performer and produced a knock of 115 not out to set up a five-wicket victory.
In a decisive partnership with Ben Foakes, who made an unbeaten 32 in a stand of 120, Root shepherded the home side to a stiff chase of 277 with his first fourth-innings hundred.
By doing so Root became just the second Englishman to reach 10,000 test runs — following in the footsteps of his own predecessor as captain, Alastair Cook. The symmetry of their achievements does not end there, with both men exactly 31 years and 157 days old when they crossed the threshold.
It was Root’s 26th century, the same as West Indian great Sir Garfield Sobers, but he will be even more satisfied by its importance to the team.
England were marginal favourites as they resumed on 216 for five, with 61 runs still needed and five wickets in hand, but the task still looked a taxing one.
With thick, grey clouds overhead and the floodlights glaring from the first ball, conditions were far from ideal for batting. A fragile tail, featuring at least three natural number 11s, also cranked up the responsibility on the overnight pairing of Root and Foakes.
But a game that has see-sawed back and forth with a series of twists along the way was put to bed in unusually serene fashion.
Root was the key man and he was reliably measured as he converted an unbeaten 77 in understated fashion. However, Foakes deserves huge credit for the way he held up his end.
Having successfully shut out the Kiwi attack on the third evening, soaking up 48 balls for his nine runs, the Surrey wicketkeeper expanded his repertoire.
With boundaries at a premium he helped himself to two in the space of three deliveries from the dangerous Kyle Jamieson, punching him off the back foot towards third man before crunching an on-drive. Later, with the target dipping below 30, he rocked onto his heels and pulled Tim Southee between two fielders for four more.
Root moved into the 90s by drilling Jamieson back down the ground and then had a slice of luck when an under edge evaded both his stumps and Tom Blundell’s dive on its way to the ropes.
New Zealand had hoped to hang in and needed the second new ball to work some magic for them. However, they could not halt England’s scoring. Root started the 77th over on 98 runs in the innings and 9,998 in his career and pinged Southee to mid-wicket for a couple to bring up a proud double.
He punched the air in joy and pointed to the pavilion as the crowd showed their appreciation, with the winning line now just a few shots away. Root finished the job in a blaze of glory, taking Southee for three boundaries in an over as he wrapped things up with a merry swing through mid-wicket.