The new era of English cricket started with a bang as Joe Root’s masterclass hundred led England to a fantastic five-wicket victory over New Zealand in the first Test at Lord’s.
Ben Stokes celebrated his birthday in fine style with a brilliant win in his first match as captain. But it was former skipper Joe Root who stole the show as he joined the pantheon of Test batting greats at the Home of Cricket.
The smiling assassin became just the 14th player in history to notch up 10,000 Test runs as his 26th ton led the hosts to a much-needed victory under the new regime.
Majestic Root is only the second Englishman to achieve the incredible feat behind Alastair Cook. Amazingly, the are the joint youngest players to reach the lofty landmark at 31 years and 157 days old.
You run out of superlatives when you try to sum up just how good Joe Root is. As he said in his post-match interview he absolutely loves batting and he does it in a style very few can replicate.
It’s been a tough couple of years under the huge burden of captaincy. And with the shackles well and truly off, just how many more accolades can England’s lynchpin reach?
England headed into the game with just one win in their last 17 Tests and fresh off the back of a horror winter in the Ashes and the West Indies.
But roared on by an appreciative Lord’s crowd Root produced a classy hundred, just the third match-winning fourth-innings hundred at Lord’s, to ensure the Brendon McCullun-Ben Stokes reign started well.
And if the first Test under their stewardship is anything to go by then we are in for a rollercoaster ride.
Sir Alastair Cook:
31 years & 157 days
31 years & 157 days
It was a huge victory for a group battling with confidence issues after a crippling two-year period. And it will lift the spirits of everyone involved in English cricket.
And in an age with a cost of living crisis and Lord’s extortionate ticket prices, Root ensured the paying public got a full refund as they cantered to victory inside the first 15 overs of the day.
Rewind to Thursday and newly-appointed Stokes would be forgiven for thinking captaincy was easy and becoming the saviour of English cricket was a mere formality.
The new aggressive approach was clear for all to see on that first as England employed SIX slips. It was the perfect first hour with wickets falling an remarkable regularity.
The recalled old guard of James Anderson and Stuart Broad proved there is plenty of life in the old dogs yet, despite the failed attempt to wheel them into the retirement home by dropping them for the West Indies tour.
And with debutant Matt Potts, an inspired selection and Stokes’ Durham protege, taking 4/13 England shot out the World Test Champions for 132. Who says the County Championship cannot produce Test quality players?
But an England collapse is never far away they crawled to a meagre first-innings lead of just nine after inexplicably losing 9/66.
The game looked out of reach for the hosts on the third morning as Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell combined for a fine 195-run fifth-wicket partnership.
But conductor Broad, sensing the game was on the line, whipped the Lord’s crowd into a frenzy with a passage of play we have become accustomed to during his illustrious career. The seamer spearheaded a team hat-trick which turned the tide in his side's favour to limit the damage.
England were left with a tricky chase and once again looked down and out at 69/4 on the penultimate afternoon.
There was another twist in the tale as skipper Stokes got a huge reprieve when he was bowled off a Colin de Grandhomme no ball. The powerful left-hander then let loose and smashed Ajaz Patel into the stands on three separate occasions as he and lieutenant Root put on 90 to keep the hopes of a welcome win alive.
And Root, who was ably aided by Ben Foakes, finished the job on the final morning with an unbeaten match-winning partnership of 120.
As Stokes says there is a long way to go and granted the frailties in the batting order are still there. But all things considered, it was the perfect start for the new era.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson reflected: “The game ebbed and flowed. We came here with high hopes and we thought the overheads would help, but it didn’t.
“It is about moving on quickly and taking the learnings. There is always plenty to take forward. It was a fantastic game of cricket and it took a great innings from an incredible player in Joe Root to win the game.”
Stokes said: “It’s an amazing start. It was a fantastic Test match to be a part of. It was a special week for me and to come away with a win makes it even better.
“What people have to remember is it’s a change of mindset for everyone and it will take time.
“I think the way we handled the pressure to chase 270 on a difficult wicket was great. Mr Dependable Joe Root stood up for us, he’s an incredible player.”
Match-winner Root beamed: “It feels fantastic. More than anything to win this Test match after such a long time is the best feeling of them all.
“It’s been a really tough couple of years for us. Hopefully we can use this as a real stepping stone. I love batting, I just want to score as many runs as I can and win matches for England.”
New Zealand 132 (Potts 4/13, Anderson 4/66) & 285 (Mitchell 108, Blundell 96)
England 141 (Southee 4/55) & 279/5 (Root 115*, Stokes 54; Jamieson 4/59)
England lead the three-match series 1-0